24 January 2013

Dinner with the Iglesias

We had dinner at the Bishop's house after church Sunday along with the missionary sisters and the first counselor and his wife. Their entire house would fit into our Farmington front room and is a third-floor walk-up. Sister Iglesias is a wonderful cook! We started off with a delectable homemade chicken soup which was followed by beef rolls stuffed with ham and cream cheese, fried chicken, chayote (a squash-like vegetable) in cream sauce, refried beans, guacamole, hot corn tortillas, fresh fruit, and a very yummy dessert made from gelatin squares, pineapple, and fresh cream. Oh, and "agua," which here means very light punch. 

The Bishop is trying to hold together a small ward that is incredibly transient and staffing is impossible. He has been without a counselor for three months and the YW/YM presidents moved away at Christmas. He has only been in the church for three years but is solid and faithful and committed. 

Their story is similar to thousands of others here in Mexico. They were living together when the missionaries found her husband. He had worked for a church member for years and so knew a little about LDS ethics and beliefs. She was a staunch Catholic and just kept saying no, no, no. The missionaries brought her husband along and he was on track to be baptized, but he needed to get married first. She said that she would get married, but no changing of religion for her! She is a very socially generous person and so sat in on the lessons, but refused to give an opinion or answer any questions. She did admit that occasionally she would ask a question, because she was curious about what was being taught. 

Three days before her husband was to be baptized, the Elders and the Zone Leaders came to do the final interview. She said that with all those missionaries in the room, the spirit became so strong that she knew something very important was happening. Finally, her husband came out and the missionary that was doing the interviewing asked her if he could speak to her for a few minutes. She went in and he asked her a couple of questions about what her husband was doing and explained what would be happening and why it was important. He then said, what are you feeling? She said, "I feel like there is someone sitting here beside me in this room and it feels good." He told her that what she was feeling was the spirit. They talked for a little longer and she said, "I suddenly knew that everything they had taught my husband was true. I knew I needed to be baptized." They walked out into the room and her husband noticed that something was different in her countenance and asked if she was okay. She told him she was fine and not to worry. The missionary then told Brother Iglesias that he and his wife would be baptized on the same day. He burst into tears. She burst into tears. The missionaries burst into tears. And they were both baptized three days later. She said, "Everything good in my life has come through this honorable, just man: a happy marriage, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and a home constantly filled with hungry missionaries who always bring the spirit. 

Barrio Central--A long, skinny Phase 1 building
The sweet people in that Barrio Central (Central Ward) are so grateful to have a piano to sing to. I am not very good any more--and without a piano to practice on, not really getting any better--but even with mistakes, it is better than nothing. They love to sing and nearly blew the roof off our first Sunday there with their enthusiasm. That definitely makes it more fun! 

22 January 2013

Which Came First?


These are quail eggs--commonly known here as "cordoniz." One of the families we have met here sells them. One week he had "too many to eat and too few to sell" so he split them between the two temple couples. We probably received 25-30 eggs each, so he must need a hundred or so to make it worth his while to sell them. If you have never tried quail eggs, you should--they are divinely delicious!

We fried some of them to compare the sizes with regular eggs. If you look closely you can see that on the left there are two quail eggs next to the chicken egg on the right. They say that they are very low in cholesterol and full of vitamins with exotic numbers and names, so we figured a little frying wouldn't hurt much :-) .

 We boiled most of them and liked them so much that we ended up eating them like popcorn. Just in case you decide to try it for yourself, boil for just 5 minutes to get this perfectly cooked egg.


In our Monterrey life, the birds actually came first. The following all found us as we wandered through the neighborhood and park on our walks. The Aratinga Holochlora, or green parakeet, swooped over our heads one afternoon screaming at the top of their lungs. They are very similar to the ones we had in Argentina. Their show was so stunning that everyone on the street stopped to watch. We have seen them many times since in the trees at the park. 

Not long after, we were surprised by a large flock of all-white ringneck doves. They were almost completely quiet and swooped and circled above us as if they knew they were being admired.

The last two stunning specimens  were the yellow-breasted Great Kiskadee and the Ladderback Woodpecker. Both of these birds have large populations here, but the woodpecker is a little shyer and so more difficult to spot. We found our first one walking up and down a telephone pole near the house (the bird was on the pole, not us). 

The final commentary on birds is that the ones that roost on the telephone pole in front of our house, also happen to roost directly above the only place to park the car. The birds vary slightly from day to day between pigeons and grackles. You might be able to guess what they do to the car. It is a constant battle to keep the windshield clean, but it gives John something meaningful to do each and every day.

19 January 2013


When we served in the Visitors' Center at the Mexico City Temple, many of our "Hermanas" (sisters) were from the north. There are many things that have touched us while serving at the temple, but the sweetest of all has been to connect with some of our beloved Hermanas again. We have seen Hna. Alvarez from Monclova, Hna. Rodriguez from the northwest of Monterrey, and have had emails from Hna. Cantu, Hna. Martinez K., and Hna. Martinez Z. We have met their parents and spouses and friends. We never imagined that we would ever see these beautiful women again--and to be able to tell their parents and family members about their amazing service in the Visitors' Center and our deep love for them is pure joy! We suspect that we will feel the same way about the fun, generous, dedicated people that we are working with here in the Monterrey Temple.

The other day, I (Linda) was working away in the temple and I heard a lovely voice say, "Leendaa. Leendaa." The shift coordinator, Hermana Torres, was trying to get my attention. I was very surprised. It is rare that anyone in Latin America ever calls me by my first name. I am always "Hermana"--a term of respect and love--but not intimacy. It touched me so deeply that she would use my name, because that is a sign of real friendship. I think I will like having a first name.

There is a very special sister that works with us in the temple: Hermana Campa. She is 84 years old and is a fixture here. She knows everyone and everything. She stands about 4 foot 8 inches tall, stretched out, and has shock-white hair. She may be one of the only two or three women in this country that don't dye their hair. Hermana Campa knows all the words to the most popular hit songs and has entertained John at the front desk for hours with her stories. She is beloved by all--people queue up to greet her when she comes. She is thin as a rail and as spunky as they come. She often tells the coordinators and the Temple Presidency to speak more quietly "in the House of the Lord." She abruptly informed us this week that there had been a black bear with two cubs sited on one of the hills. A nearby university that backs up against the mountains had a large sign on the gates warning people of possible bears in the area. It listed what should be done to prevent being killed by one: don't give them water or food, move away from them rather than toward them, etc. When Hermana Campa leaves the temple after her shift, she looks a lot like a round, little bear with her many layers of bulky clothing--a very nice, friendly little bear. It has been in the low forties this week with high humidity. It is a penetrating cold and she dresses accordingly with an eclectic style of texture, patterns and color that we only wish we could emulate!

We just heard that Brother and Sister Galavíz, who have served in the temple since it was opened, are leaving next month for a mission to Tijuana. They will be serving in the mission office there. He is a jovial, happy-go-lucky gentleman that is one of John's best buddies. She is a general--a very kind general, but a general just the same. She has been the matriarch of the laundry and folds and hangs everything exactly to the centimeter specified in some rulebook somewhere. She is amazing! She has tirelessly worked to teach me to fold towels so that they take up the least amount of space possible, but still look fluffy. Her tutoring has included how to hide the stripe woven into the bottom of the towel and how to stack them so that they rival anything found in the finest hotel. Hermana Machucha (the temple president's wife) says that when Hermana Galavíz is working, the towels look truly celestial. If I had more than two towels I might even be tempted to try this at home.

Every few weeks I (John) seem to have an indescribable experience in the temple. On Thursday night this week, we had a newly endowed couple serve in a special way here. They had not had much experience being in the temple, but they carried a spirit about them that was infectious, at least to me. They had come with great sacrifice from Valle Verde, an area well-removed from Monterrey proper. They were humble, very simply attired, and sweet. Very sweet. As I watched them through their time in the temple, they seemed to be wholly taken by the experience. When I thanked them at the end, we were all three weeping.

Tonight a very elderly lady was sealed to her deceased husband, deceased son and living daughter. She, herself, was then sealed to her parents. This hermana hadn't been a member of the church long, but she has great faith. There were several members from her ward and family present. It was a very emotional experience for everyone present, especially for the family. Good stuff!

14 January 2013

And The Winner Is.....

There were many different answers to the question, "How old is this baby?" Guesses ranged from one year to 2 weeks. Little Elyse Torres is 5 days old in this photo--yes, nearly four inches of hair and brand new to this world. 

We are proud to announce that the surprise winner was Uncle Michael from Connecticut--he came the closest with a guess of two weeks. Congrats Don Miguel--you are the winner of worldwide fame!

And thank you to everyone for playing our guessing 

10 January 2013

Home Sweet Home

This page is dedicated to our darling daughter-in-law, "La Tanya," who wants to know what our house looks like: 

The yellow cement box is our home here in Monterrey. We call it our "double-wide" because it is set up exactly like a double-wide trailer, with the main difference being that the location of this house cannot be changed unless you are Mexican and have a hammer and a chisel. In that case, in a mere month the entire edifice can be erased from the face of the earth. 

Another difference that you will note right away is the fact that we live in a cage. Every opening in the house and patio is covered with impenetrable bars which serve to keep bad guys out and good guys (hopefully us) in. There is a large patio area next to the street, which in most houses serves as an entertainment room. All parties are held in the patios at the front of the houses, which may occasionally double as garages. This clever arrangement allows the Mexican Mariachi music to be enjoyed by all the neighbors on the street, all night long, so that no one feels left out of the party! 

We must mention the special parking place that is reserved for us. You might notice the yellow stripes on the road. These notify drivers that there is a speed bump ahead--a serious speed bump. The word for speed bump in Spanish is "tope." We believe that it is derived from the English "top" and "pay" because if you hit the bump too fast, the top of your head will hit the ceiling of the car and you will pay with a headache for the rest of the day. There is always a car parked immediately in front of us and also immediately behind. John is now an expert at parallel parking over the "tope." 

As you enter the front door (see male figure indicating door above), you step into the living room. The floor is indestructible cast stone blocks that are the most amazing camouflage pattern you have ever seen. If we drop something on the floor, it disappears like magic. It took us three days to find a wandering puzzle piece even after searching on hands and knees. No one would ever know if this floor was clean or not! 

The back half of our "living" area is the dining room. This shows the layout from the front door. Those of you studying interior design might duly note that the yellow color theme on the outside of  the house has been carefully carried into the interior of the living space creating continuity and maybe even harmony--you will have to tell us.  The door behind the dining area is our study--at least until March when the temperatures rise to unmentionable heights.

The other side of the house includes the master bedroom and bath, the kitchen, another bath and bedroom. The main feature in this bedroom is the air conditioner/heater mounted on the wall above the bed. This is the little piece of magic that makes living in Monterrey possible year round.

In the master bath the towel racks are perfectly placed for our 6 foot 3 inch landlord, but life is sweet-- the shower is double the size of the one we had in Mexico City.

 Our kitchen is actually smaller than those in most double-wide trailers, but we are finding ways to make it work. One way is to have only one adult in the kitchen at a time. Passing someone else in the kitchen is a very intimate experience. Our darling little oven has two temperatures: 450 and 325. If we are cooking something on the top of the range, then the oven temperatures drop by about 100 degrees. It made cooking Thanksgiving dinner just a bit of a challenge.

The blue contraption on the left is the source of all safe drinking water. The photo on the right shows our tower of modern conveniences. It is a tower because there is only one outlet in the kitchen--and yes, it is behind the microwave. It looks a lot like an octopus due to the many protruding wires--we are very careful about how many appliances we turn on at once. 

We have an automatic dishwasher for which Linda is very grateful.  He is committed to a very high standard of excellence and always provides service with a smile.   

Our state of the art washroom is outside the kitchen door along a narrow passageway. You will note that the common washer and dryer have been included with the house. The landlord has also thoughtfully included a non-electric washboard sink in which one can scrub clothes during the power outages. This can be used with the clever invention called a clothes line. Ours is above the washer and dryer and is environmentally friendly. It uses only people and wind power and quickly dries almost anything.

And finally, the most important part of the house. We call this the "What Matters Most" wall:

06 January 2013

Three Kings Day

January 6th is Three Kings Day or El Día de los Reyes. It is a big deal here in Mexico! We were invited to President and Sister Machuca's home for "Rosca de Reyes" (Kings cake) and hot chocolate. It was yummy, especially the hot chocolate from Bilbao, Spain. The rosca, or cake, is a large round bread with candied fruits and sugar on it. Inside there is a small plastic doll hidden in the dough that looks like a baby or a wise man. The person that gets the little doll has to make tamales for the group on February 2nd. John got the doll--luckily he found it with the knife and not his teeth. So guess who is throwing the next party? (note the little doll on the top of the box--many cakes have as many as 6 of these). The temple president was telling us that they had one at a party one time and only finished with four "babies." He said that his fear was that two of them were mistakenly eaten!

Small "Rosca" with one doll.

Large "Rosca" with 6 dolls

This weekend was an adventure. We worked Friday night, arriving home about 10:30. We grabbed something to eat and then spent some time winding down. About midnight we crawled into bed. There was a party next door, so sleep didn't come until about 2:00 a.m. At 6:30 a.m. the phone rang. The President needed us to take the 7:20 session as the only workers were the president and wife and the coordinators. The coordinators were already on a session and there were people waiting for the next one. We made it just in the nick of time and finished around 10:00. We went home, had some breakfast and then crawled back into bed. At 12:30 we were back at the temple for our real shift. We were really ready for bed by the time we finished that day!

04 January 2013

Happy New Year from Monterrey

Early in the morning of December 29 we lost our Internet and all connection with the outside world. Apparently, it was weary after all the Christmas pressure and decided to take a five day vacation. Since we woke up that morning and the world was apparently still in existence, we knew we had survived the Mayan Calendar threat and still had to pay all of our bills.  We were, however, left with the USA on the brink of the “fiscal cliff,” no elected officials in town, and no way to know if America had become another Greece or not. 

After many calls to the Carlos Slim telephone monopoly, we were finally informed that we were at the very center of the massive Internet failure and no one knew when we would be reconnected. We resorted to quick checks of email in the  McDonald's parking lot every couple of days--not a great way to work on the Internet. 

Finally, on January 3, 2013 (truly an auspicious date), the green lights appeared once again on our router and we were reconnected to the vast spectrum of humanity. Imagine our relief to find out that the USA did not go over the edge of the fiscal cliff and it is rumored that it will survive to spend another $10 trillion before we finish our mission! Whew! 

New Year's Eve the air in Monterrey was full of smoke. Up until midnight the smoke was from the thousands of asados (barbecues) happening around the city--beef never smelled so good! At midnight the smell changed from savory to gun powdery when the entire state of Nuevo Leon erupted in fireworks and fire crackers. There was some formidable noise in the city--it felt like we were in the middle of a WW II movie set on D-Day! While walking in the park the next morning we passed what was left of someone's rockets--as you can tell they are not the little things we shoot off!

Parties are serious business here. They start early and end early--early the next day that is. The one on our street went all night, ending about 7:00 a.m. As that one was finishing up, another one started up about 8:30 a.m. We feel that we have seriously started 2013 with a bang. 

Here is today's trivia question: How old is this baby? You will have one week to submit your entries via email or in the comments section and then the truth will be told.

Elysa Torres

Ward change (John):

After visiting with our stake president and our mission president and seeking a different opportunity to serve, we have decided to start attending the Barrio Central (Central Ward) in our stake. The ward is down in the city center. The bishop has not been a member of the church long, but he is very committed and full of energy. He has one counselor, an incomplete relief society organization, a few primary-age children and fewer active youth. The unit has had many challenges over the years, chief being a tendency of members there to join the church, better their circumstances and move to a more desirable part of town. No one has played the piano since April. The members were all virtually in tears Sunday when Linda played the prelude music and hymns. Music makes such a huge difference in peoples’ worship. I know it does in mine, and having a piano or organ is a key part of the worship experience. The ward we’re leaving in Campestre has several pianists, including members of the bishopric. There are two ex-temple presidents, several ex-mission presidents, current and past Stake Presidents.......you get the picture. We are looking forward to worshiping with these great people in Barrio Central and learning from them. A few are returned missionaries, so there is a good experience base among the small group. We were reminded of our previous experience in Mexico City where we attended an outlying ward in Xochitenco. 

One thing we noticed right off when we first walked into church last Sunday: The place was spotless, including the bathrooms. Such is a reliable indication that the people that do attend care greatly about their building and each other. We were discussing the scripture in Alma 37:5-6: “And now behold, if they are kept they must retain their brightness; yea, and they will retain their brightness; yea, and also shall all the plates which do contain that which is holy writ. Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.” I really think Alma nailed it when he stressed keeping the plates bright. It is such a metaphor for success in the church and in one’s personal life. When things are clean and nice and orderly, great things can happen with the people involved.