Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Noche Final - Para las Damas

Well, it came. We never thought it would, at least not so soon, but we've finally reached the end of our trip. We look on with mixed emotions. We are ever so happy to be coming home to all of you, especially our mommies! A hot shower is seen in Kelsey's near future and a nice long massage for Kate (don't worry, she'll shower too). Trust us friends, we're happy to be coming home. Still, we'll miss it here. That Zeta Gas jingle that drove us NUTS when we first heard it (speak of the devil, there it is), the cowbell announcing the garbage men, and especially all of our beautiful new friends who made us feel so welcome and at home from our first overwhelmingly frightening night. We've gotten accustomed to the way of life here. Six blocks is nothing to walk out in service, four people can easily fit in the back seat of a small car, and you must always be sure to greet friends with at least a hand shake, if not a kiss.

A sister from the U.S. told us that when people get the bug, they just can't stay away. She followed it with "it definitely looks like you girls got bit". That's for sure, we thought, remembering all of our itchy mosquito bites. Yes, that statement was true in more than just one way. We've gotten bit by the Mexico bug (no, not a cockroach). The bug that makes you fall in love with the people, the lifestyle, the culture. The bug that dares you to stay away, but knows that you won't be able to. We've got it, and trust me, it's far more resistant than any west nile or Dengay fever, however you spell it (or "bengay" as Andy called it). We haven't even left yet and we miss it. We miss service, and our congregation and ... don't get us started.

Everyone says "when are you coming back?" In fact, a couple of them even suggested a contract to secure our return! Trust us though, there's no need for it. We're trapped in the vortex that is this city. Barring unforeseen circumstances which are always a possibility, we definitely plan to come back! If for nothing else, for ''Wednesday night margaritas" Just kidding! By the way, here's a clip of our last night in Guadalajara. Talk about going out with a bang.


video

We've agreed, as we usually do, that this trip has really helped us. The congregation has expressed a lot of gratitude for our help... but we feel as Paul did, that there has been an interchange of encouragement. We feel so much more focused now. We've been reminded of what the ministry really is about. Seeing so many new ones progressing at amazing strides, seeing people truly interested in the Bible and so willing to listen has given us a fresh perspective on the ministry. The congregation has, without knowing it, given us needed encouragement to go out there and take on our goals, as they have. There is a whole world of opportunities out there in the truth, yes, even for sisters. You just have to be willing to get out there and try it!

We leave you all now, ready to come home to you, full of even more stories that we just couldn't fit in here. We know you'll be full of questions, and trust us, we'll be ready to answer... in fact there's little chance of you hearing the end of our stories... that is, not until we return to our new Mexico home away from home. It's amazing how being in Jehovah's organization makes such good friends so quickly! These are none to soon be broken either, because, as we said at the outset, our first day, we have the most important thing in common. That is, a common desire to be witnesses of Jehovah, wherever the need may be. We send our love, and the love of the Zapopan English Congregation, and we look forward to seeing you all soon!

Your "Mexican" Hermanitas,

Kate and K3LSO

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Santa Lucia

Wow, we’ve been busy! Sorry to let our loyal fans down yet again because of going a whole day with posting. However, we do have a really good excuse for why! Yesterday, we went to San Juan de Dios for informal witnessing and some more local shopping. That place is awesome! It was like the tiangis, but indoors and four stories! We only we went to the bottom floor and we still didn’t get to see all of that. It’s pretty crazy there, with everyone trying to get you to buy from them. We had a hard time haggling with the people because their prices were already very reasonable! But we tried, and felt an immense sense of accomplishment when they gave us a 5 peso discount ($0.50)!!! As you walk past all of the vendors, who might as well be reaching out and grabbing you, you can hear them all saying “A sus ordenes” (which basically means “at your service”). Slightly overwhelming, but very cool, nonetheless.

We did have some really great service-related experiences. We learned an easy way to converse with foreigners. We just say to anyone who looks like they’re from anywhere else, in English: “Do you speak English?” Easy, right? If they don’t, they have no idea what you said and continue walking. But if they do, you just say “Oh, I thought you looked like a foreigner, where are you from?” So this one lady we talked to was from Britain and she was very friendly. She told us that she used to teach a religion class and she told us some of the experiences she had with it. It was really sad to hear how uninterested people have progressively gotten in learning about God. She expressed her disappointment in that fact as well, and we had a very wonderful conversation with her.

It doesn’t always turn out so well, though. We asked one man if he spoke English. Not even stopping, he said to us in perfect American English “No I don’t speak English.” We didn’t take it personally, but how sad that someone would be so unwilling to even talk to someone from their own country. At San Juan de Dios, we got a little caught up in shopping but were promptly reminded of the real reason for our being there when a man asked Kelsey if we were the people with "la atalaya" or the Watchtower. (We were the only ones there dressed up, and most of us had book bags.) Turns out he didn’t speak a word of English so we asked our new friend Alvaro to talk to the man. Overall, it went very well and we had an awesome time!

The bus was a different fun adventure. On the way to Centro, we encountered some really bad stop-and-go traffic. The bus had to turn and take a different route because the street was blocked due to a protest. Care to guess what they were protesting? Lactose. Well, that’s only what we were told, and we think it might have been a little jumbled in translation. They must have been protesting dairy products. Who knows? Anyway, on the way back, it was raining and we got to watch the deadly walls of water from the safety of inside the bus this time.

Afterward, we went to Josh’s house (well, actually Arnie’s house, but he’s in London and Josh is “house/puppy sitting”). Since there were three guys and three gals, Lesley wanted to dance. But we ended up just playing a game of 8 questions and listening to Josh play and sing a beautiful Mexican song called Santa Lucia. Then, thank goodness, we got home at a decent hour. Today is the day we’re taking to relax this week but, as we’re preparing to leave the day after tomorrow, we also need to get some packing done. Now, we're set to go to our favorite place in the whole wide world. That’s right, Sorianna Super. Just kidding. Do we really even have to tell you??

Your friendly neighbors south of the border,

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Save Our Hairspray!

Well, again we send our apologies for the lateness of this post. We had a bit of a late night last night, or should I say this morning. The young ones here invited us to go out last night, so we met them at this place, but it was "lame" so we all decided to go somewhere else. One sister (Lesley) suggested we go to her house and bailar a little bit, so we did. A few brothers tried to teach us to dance. (trust me friends, it wasn't pretty) Yep, we're pretty much white girls through and through. They couldn't speak any English, and they laughed at our Spanish so we had some trouble with getting to know them. Then Danny (the one we went out in service with on Wednesday) tried some more, that helped. He used Kelsey as a visual aid for teaching Josh, then used Kate so Josh could practice with a partner. Mexicans don't fly solo when it comes to dancing.

Well, at around midnight her neighbor came over and told her that it was time to turn off the music. Now, in the states that would have meant that the party was over, not here. We just went to someone else's house. We ended up staying until almost 3 which was WAY too late for us, but in our defense we had to wait for everyone else to leave so Josh could give us a ride home. (Josh is house-sitting for the brother whose house we were at) We got to bed at around 4 and slept till 11. Meeting was at 12, so we had to rush a bit, but we made it on time. Andy conducted the Watchtower study since 2 elders were out of town and the third gave the public talk. He did very well, we both agree. After meeting we got our favorite people (Irving and Andy) to go with us... or we went with them... to lunch and then to Starbucks. Yes, again! It's like we never left home. After S-Bux Andy went home, but not before demonstrating his mad musical skills as you can see below. We have to say, he beats Pierce Brosnan, but how hard is that!
video
After the performance, Irving came back with us and... you guessed it! Show tunes for hours! Not just show tunes though, for Kate's sake. We did a little of everything. Even country! We sang "Goodbye Earl" to Irving. (don't tell Kate it was country though, she doesn't think it is) (It's not country, it's the Dixie Chicks and they're an exception, GOSH)Anyway, here's yet another sampling of Irving's immense musical talents!
video
At around 8 we got hungry and decided to finally fill Kate's Outback craving. This was MUCHO fun. We dressed Irving up complete with a hat and made him all GQ. He was embarrassed and wanted everyone to think he was a tourist, so we played it up. We pretended
we had to translate for him and called him a "Gringo". In a final endeavor, we gave him a Spanish/English dictionary and had him ask for... um... "la cuenta" Kate whispers "EL QUAINTA, por favor", said Irving with such a great American accent that when Kate explained to the waitress that he spoke no Spanish, she said "lo vi" (I saw) A success! So, now we're back home, watching TV. "Pretty dang exciting" as Nacho Libre would say. Tomorrow we're going to do some informal witnessing in Centro. We'll tell you how it goes.

Until then we send our love, along with a big hug big kiss, big kiss big hug... no more of this little stuff.

Les amamos mucho,

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hopelessly Under My Umbrella (ella, ella)

So, remember how we said we were running out of exciting stories...? We got more! Today started off like most other days (those where we don't sleep in, that is) We got up and went to meet for service at 9:30. No one showed up for the first few minutes, then Marjorie (from before) Albert (the "dreamboat") Lisbeth and another sister named Rosa came. They told us that they had been held up be a hole taking up 3 of the 4 lanes of traffic. We were glad to have someone to go with and soon went out into the field. No one had territory so we had a pretty leisurely morning of doing calls, complete with a trip to Starbucks (yes, another one) where Kate was able to chat a little with a barista who talked as if he had some belief in reincarnation or something similar.

Around one o'clock we went to the Kingdom Hall where we found Lesley waiting for another sister to come to meet her for a study. Albert had a study too so, we went to the Tiangis with Marjorie and Irving to do a little informal witnessing/shopping. Yet again, NO you may not ask what we got or for whom! We will tell you that we got awesome deals and really cool stuff. Believe it or not, we did continue our service through all this buying! In fact, Irving talked to a couple of guys from here who spoke very good English. He offered them the Watchtower and Awake which they gladly accepted. Then THEY said, "where can we find you?" Can you believe that? Basically, THEY asked for a return visit! Total roll-reversal for a second! The young man gladly gave Irving his phone number and Irving is going to call him soon to follow up! On the way out we saw some kids with school uniforms. Since most schools here teach English, Kate asked them "¿hablan ustedes Ingles?" The boy nodded his head and said "oui." He got a little flustered but we all laughed. Kate proceeded to give them a Watchtower and Awake which they took most gratefully. We love the people here!

After the Tiangis, Marjorie had to go home. We were within walking distance of our apartment AND our Starbucks, you can guess which we chose first. On the way to Starbucks, Irving decided to break out some killer show-tunes. I (Kelsey) of course had to join in. We sang "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast, then "Good morning Baltimore" from Hairspray. Then Irving started rattling off the song from the end of Grease and lost me. When he moved on to "Hopelessly Devoted to You" Kate got the idea to film him! Pretty smart, eh? He thought she was just trying to take a picture. Irving didn't want to go all the way home and come all the way back for book study, so we let him hang out at our casa. We put on some music (more show-tunes) and danced and sang along together until it was time for us to leave for book study. Anyway, check out the insanity:

video


We thought it had been exciting so far, but we didn't know the half of what the day held in store for us. We left a little after 7:00 for book study at the Kingdom Hall, about a 15 minute walk from here. It was raining a little, so we took 2 of the McCaslands' umbrellas (we left ours in Marjorie's car) we figured they would be enough since the rain was light and Kelsey happens to be an odd duck. She said "Oh, don't worry about me, I love the rain." Little did she know that by the end of the walk she would be humming quite a different tune, and no, that tune was not "singin' in the rain". (Kate had had it up to here­­­^ with show tunes)

By the time we made it to the street, the downpour had begun. When we say downpour we really mean it. None of this pithy Idaho rain. In 5 min
utes we got as much rain as Idaho gets in a year (or so it seemed)! If not, at
least as much as Nevada! We tried to shield ourselves, but it was no use. A bus (the Turquesa) drove by and splashed Irving on one side, the rivers along the side walks didn't help the bottom of our skirts, and the rain falling off the umbrellas was not helping the top of Kelsey's skirt... or anything for that matter. When the Kingdom Hall was in sight, Irving said "Okay, let's run". Kelsey, not a fan of running, but also not a fan of being this wet in meeting clothes, finally decided to run for the finish line. (Well, anyone who knows me, can probably guess what happened next... Along the way was a taco stand that had some tile out front. Apparently, in Mexico they're not so strict about those "CAUTION! SLIPPERY WHEN WET!" signs. So, true to form, I fell flat on my back before I even had time to catch myself. TIMBER! In case there had been any part of me that was dry before, that was definitely taken care of now.)


We made our way to the Kingdom Hall only to find that no one was there and the gate was locked (we assumed our Twin Falls/Pocatello Kingdom Hall keys would not help us in this situation). We ducked into a little market and assessed the damage. As we said, Kelsey was SOAKED from head to toe... literally! Kate was only soaked from... knee to toe, and a little on her back. Irving was a little worse than Kate. We waited and waited, finally Kandi (the multi-lingual sister) showed up and ducked inside with us. Then another brother from the book study. Kandi called a brother with a key and he said he was on his way, but there had been an accident due to the rain. Anyway, we finally got in around 8 and started at about 8:20. Afterward, a brother offered us a ride home and you guessed it... human sardines again. Now we're safe at home, dry and clean with full bellies (as has been the norm since we've gotten here) and listening to another storm, but enjoying this one much more than the last.

We can't believe we have less than a week left of this adventure, but we're so preoccupied with being happy and enjoying every moment that we're not too sad over it. We do, however, miss you dearly and eagerly look forward to seeing you soon! Until then, always remember your umbrella. Otherwise a young lad who loves show tunes might feel compelled to start singing his own version of Rihanna's "Umbrella" (much to Kate's chagrin).

BIG HUG, little kiss, BIG KISS, BIG HUG,

K3LSO and Kate

PS: Notice how the brother went from composed to, well, you can see him in that last picture. What a crazy dude!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

La Cucaracha! La Cucaracha!

As one might rightly conclude by the name of today’s entry, we had our first encounter with a cucaracha. That thing was HUGE!!! It crawled under a lady’s foot and another lady freaked out and went toward the thing with a vengeance! Then, in a rage, she stomped on that cucaracha with the force that can only be rivaled by a nuclear warhead. Though we were quite disgusted by the scene, we decided it was a great memory that should be tenderly guarded for the rest of our lives. So we continued on to the lavanderia, laundry mat, and proceeded to make our clothes nice and clean. We had lunch at this Chinese restaurant that came highly recommended. We thought it was kind of funny how they had, you guessed it, Mexican salsa for people to put on their Chinese food. By the way, we got up very late today, thus the reason for our lack of spiritual activities.

After we finished with our laundry, we went to our Starbucks and again saw our friend Victoria. In the picture, she’s on the left, and the other girl’s name is Adriana. We studied for the book study (which we’ll be attending tomorrow evening) and then got directions to do some local shopping. We ended up going to Plaza del Sol. No, you may not ask what we bought nor for whom we bought it!

We’re going to take a moment to tell you about last night. After we posted our blog, we were hungry and didn’t know where to eat so we decided to go to the only place we do know: galarias mall. When we got there, we realized that the only food places are American chains which made us very sad. We thought, “Hey why don’t we check out the food court?” On our way up the escalator, we spotted Irving and Andy on their way down the escalator! We exchanged hellos in passing and when they got to the bottom they came back up to greet us properly. We explained our dilemma to them, for which Andy had an excellent solution. “There’s this great hamburger place we could go to,” he said. We were in! We shared jokes, mostly blonde jokes, through the whole meal and laughed so hard it hurt. It seemed like Jehovah was giving us the exact thing we needed at the moment, good fellowship and a good laugh (or a hundred).

Ok, so back to what happened today. We found another Starbucks at Plaza del Sol, but we didn’t go inside. We ate at this place at the shopping center called Hippos, which we thought was somewhat strange. Kelsey noticed this man sitting at a table behind us who had a horrible Spanish accent. She assumed he was American and we smiled at the thought that we weren’t the only ones completely out of our element. Well, after he got his beer, hamburger and french fries (ahem, AMERICAN!!!), I guess he got his confidence up and went over to a table with two Mexican ladies. “Me llamo Jason. Soy de Canada,” he said as seductively as a 37-year old Canadian playa’ with horrible Spanish can. It seems they were impressed and he joined them at their table. Weirdos.

Anyway, we finally decided it was time to go, and of course we had no idea which bus to take to get home. We took the server’s word for it and journeyed in an unknown direction. It seemed like things were going well until we got onto our second bus. That’s when things went south, and I don’t mean South Guadalajara! Turns out we were going the very wrong way and we just decided to exit the bus and get a taxi. As the frustration grew, we started to lose our sense of adventure, only to be reminded by our taxi driver that it’s ok to get lost in the city as long as you learn more about the city. I’m not so sure we learned much. It’s times like these we recall to mind the advice you dear friends gave us before our departure:

1. Be careful with sharp knives
2. Don’t eat lentil soup
3. Don’t agree to go with strangers to a place called “the Ranch”

All valuable advice, yes, but since none of it was especially helpful in this particular situation, we opted to take Doris Day’s words to heart: “Que serĂ¡ , serĂ¡ .” However it happened, we’re now back at the apartment, listening to some man (we can’t help but think he’s drunk) yelling for someone to let him in the gate. Rest assured that we won’t be letting him in, and don’t worry, even if someone does, he can’t get into our apartment with the two locked doors! But on that note, we will end this lovely post with these crucial words of wisdom: friends don’t let friends have cockroaches take up dwelling beneath their shoes.

Love, as we’re affectionately called here,

The Idaho girls

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Flores, Frutas y Verduras

We thought we would give you a glimpse of the abundance of tropical flowers that are here. Interestingly, Guadalajara is at the same latitude as the Hawaiian Islands! It’s easy to believe because of just how green it is, not to mention how vibrant the flowers are. What, did you guys really think Mexico was all desert and tacos? Well, there's a bird of paradise on the right, and that's a hibiscus below!

Today was a good service day. We met two sisters (who are also sisters) named Alejandra and Monica and we got to know them well as we went door-to-door. In the afternoon, we went with Lizbet and a guy named Danny. Danny is from California, and has only lived here for 6 months. His family is in America and the U.S. won’t let him come back to be with them. It’s a really sad situation, but he seems to being doing very well spiritually. So we went to the tiangis and talked to people on the streets on the way there. Danny talked to a nice guy who spoke English and they had a nice discussion.

The tiangis is really cool. It’s full of hand-crafted things, like beautiful jewelry (no maracas though, sorry mommy). It’s pretty cheap, but even their cheap prices are hiked up a little bit. We ate lunch there and it was really delicious food. Kate had a carne asada taco that was HUGE and Kelsey ate a quesadilla frita. We both liked it a lot. While we were there, there was a lady across from us with huge fingernails. That’s a pretty typical Mexican thing, but these were extra sparkly and huge and gaudy! We'll spare you the candid picture Kelsey snapped...after all, this is a family website. However, check out this cute little puppy on the roof of the pet shop (he may be tough to see, so click on the picture to make it bigger). Dogs like this are fairly common here and are aptly called "roof dogs."

Another thing they had at the tiangis was a whole bunch of different kinds of fruits and vegetables. They even have certain types of fruits that you can't find in the states (and we've never seen them before). We’re getting used to the culture here, and looking forward to having more to tell you. Even our feet are getting used to all the walking. Who knows, maybe you’ll be motivated to come and help out too! It’s nice to see so many people willing to sacrifice comfort to serve where they’re needed more. We can see so much zeal and happiness for the ministry here, and that’s definitely rubbing off on us. The people here are here because they want to be! They don’t just exist, they really live. They don't just go in service, they spend time doing it right. They’ve been such an inspiration for us. It seems like we've been here forever, and yet that we just arrived. And now, we only have one more week and we look forward to it with mixed emotions.

Until next time...

Kate and K3LSO

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

OXXO

We went out in service today even though it’s the biggest Mexican holiday. That was awesome because, unlike the other times we went out, we only needed 15 minutes to get there and that was on foot! We went with Irving, Josh, Jesse and a sister named Judith. Judith is really cool. She was born in Mexico City, but moved to Frankfurt Germany when she was 19 and that’s where she became a Witness. She’s also lived in two different cities in Iran. Kelsey learned today that Irving is her flute buddy, but he doesn’t like chocolate and we think that’s strange! Irving is one of those kids that says really funny things and doesn’t even realize it. For example, OXXO is the name of a convenience store here, and he likes to say that it means “hug kiss kiss hug.” When the other guys wanted to go “make some RV’s,” Irving thought they wanted to go witness at a trailer park! Something we were told about before coming here was the stray dogs and cats. However, these are some of the most well-behaved animals we've ever seen. This dog was just lying in dirt as we walked by!

We only went in service in the morning since it’s a meeting night and people usually stay home. So we got dropped off near our house around 1pm and stopped by the taco stand on the corner. We ate these strange things called “tortas ahogadas” and “tacos dorados” which is basically bread or hard taco “drowned” in delicious sauce. After that, we went home and enjoyed the rain from the shelter of our little apartment. There are neighbors moving in upstairs, and they sure are noisy! Their kids keep running up and down the stairs and the men keep opening and closing the squeaky gate as they move their stuff inside.

Speaking of noisy, today is 16 de setiembre which means that last night this city was the party central of all of Jalisco! And boy do these Mexicanos know how to party! We just happen to be right next to this big outdoor amphitheatre. Last night it was quite a happenin’ place. It sounded to us like the Mariachi equivalent to a rock concert, complete with screaming girls and super amps! It was so loud! We recognized one song from the night in Tlaquepaque with the cute Mariachi guy. The only word we know in the song is “A-moooooooor”. We like it. Victoria at Starbucks told us she thinks it’s a song by Alejandro Fernandez. He is un hombre muy muy guapo in Mexico. He’s a BIG star here. All the girls love him. Once she told us that, we thought that it might have been him, in concert! Probably not, but we like to think it was him because that would be cool! Anyway, we went to get dinner (and a churro, the best ever by the way) came back, ate, watched Raising Helen, and went to bed around 12 and he was still at it! Then he talked for a long time and all the girls screamed louder than ever. We imagined that he must have been saying, “we’re having a contest. Whoever screams the loudest gets un beso de mi” But that’s just our active imaginations working off our crazy assumptions. By the way, that's a picture of the Farmacia Guadalajara that's on the corner near our apartment. It is open 24/7!!!

Guess where we are now? If you said Starbucks, you know us too well! We’re at the one on Avenida Guadalupe and our friend Victoria is here. She’s so sweet, she gave us both free drinks!!! Oh yeah, and if anyone from Kate’s Starbucks is reading this, I’m drinking my old Dulce de Leche bebida favorita! In your face y’all. We were just talking on the way here about how it seems we don’t have nearly as many fun stories to relate to you guys. In a way, it makes us a little sad, but it also makes us feel pretty good! That means that we are getting used to being here and that it’s not so much about what’s different from there. Now it’s just like, this is how it is and we accept and love it! We’re walking more and more and it’s killing us less and less, so watch out when we get home…you might just get taste of the Mexican style of service.

Hope you guys are up for the challenge! As always, we send our love.

K3LSO and Kate