Welcoming in a New Year is a long and festivity-filled process. Ours began on December 30th about 2:00 p.m. President and Hermana Alvaradejo (temple president and matron) stopped in front of our house, rang the bell and handed us a dozen Blue Crabs from the Gulf of Mexico. A "little bird" had told them that our New Year's tradition was eating crab--so they delivered! It was the surprise of all surprises and what an adventure!
We learned a lot about Blue Crabs and how they are different from the Dungeness we usually eat. First of all, they needed cleaning so there was a quick Internet orientation (thankfully, they had already been killed so we did not have to plunge a knife into the heart and listen to the death rattle). We then plunged them into boiling water until they turned bright orange.
It was then necessary to cool and crack them so we could dig the meat out of the shell one tiny tidbit at a time. These crabs were about five-inches across the widest point and with much work and persistence, we were able to extract about a tablespoon of meat from each crab.
|Cracking the Crab|
It was definitely not enough to feel the two of us, so we went local: We made blue crab and cheese quesadillas for New Year's Day. We discovered that it is much sweeter and much softer than other crabs. We will never forget the year we were introduced to true Mexican Gulf Blue Soft-shell Crabs and true Mexican generosity!
|Crab meat from 12 soft-shelled Blue Crab|
Lulú's Missionary Lesson
That same evening, the Meneses, invited us to their home for Family Home Evening on December 30th. It turned out that their friend Lulú was meeting with the sister missionaries at their home for a short lesson and then dinner. Lulú had attended the Campestre Ward Christmas party and loved the people and the warmth of the gathering. She was so surprised at how much fun everyone had and how close they were. She was invited to meet with the Hermanas after that and this was her second meeting with them. As the Hermanas taught about the Savior, prayer, and faith, Lulú quietly wept and occasionally asked a question or made a comment. After we closed the meeting with prayer and prepared to have dinner together she said, "Why do I always cry when the missionaries are teaching me?" We weren't at the next meeting, but feel sure that the theme of that meeting was the Holy Spirit.
The Meneses always, always have a gift of some sort for us. This night, Brother Meneses presented each of us with an envelope. John's envelope said, "Elder Hoffman: Reciba y regale mucho de esto." (Receive and give much of this.) Linda's envelope said, "Hermana Hoffman: Usted se ha ganado y regalará un sin fin de esto." (You have gained and will gift to others an endless supply of this.")
Inside were tissue fold-up cut-outs of the XOXO that is the "secret code" between us and our children. He remembered this from another visit because we took photos of the crossed utensils at the side of the round plates to send to our grandchildren.
New Year's Eve
December 31st was cold, very cold and rainy. We were delighted because we thought that maybe the fireworks wouldn't be as numerous as last year. It is clear that we know nothing yet about authentic Mexican cultural practices! Perhaps because it was raining, there were only 50,000 people downtown at the Fundidora Park celebrating--the rest of Monterrey was partying on our street. At 10:30 the music started. Now this is not just any old kind of music, this is serious Mariachi music with lots of big bass. It was turned up as high as the speakers would allow and our house began to dance right along with the revelers moving to every beat of the booming bass.
At 11:30 a few fire crackers went off and we were duly alerted to the excitement in the air. From that moment until 5:00 a.m., there was a steady stream of rockets, fire crackers, cherry bombs, etc. Our thoughtful neighbors made sure that we didn't miss a thing by lighting them off right in front of our house! Our windows shook in their tracks. Debris dropped constantly onto the roof. Packaging regularly hit the grating around the front of our house with a loud "crack" and the house filled with the smell of gun powder.
We know one thing for sure now. You have never really celebrated the New Year until you have done it in Monterrey, Mexico!
The temple reopened with a bang on Thursday--missionaries at 7:00 and again at 9:00. Imagine not only clothing, herding, and helping 90 missionaries; but then washing, folding and storing all of their clothing. We came early to take the first session and helped until nearly 10 and then returned in the afternoon at 4:00 for a full shift. Makes for a long, but sweet day!
January 4, 2014--A Visit from Zacatecas
|Familia Román, Hna. and Elder Hoffman, Elder and Hna. Rodriguez, Familia Jacinto|
One of our dear Hermanas from the Visitors' Center in Mexico City came to Monterrey for a couple of days from Zacatecas. Hna. Elysa Perez-Klein is now married to Alejandro Roman and they have three adorable children. We met with them, Hermana Elena Rodriguez and her hubby Augusto Jacinto, and her parents Maria Elena and Dante Rodriguez. At 11:30 in the morning we had a full turkey dinner! It was great to share testimonies, stories from the mission and great memories of experiences shared in the Visitor's Center. All have big, big challenges--but they also have big, big testimonies of gospel and deep faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. Ex-Elder Román is now a bishop and his wife, besides being mom to three adorable children, teaches pre-school and is working on her Master's Degree. Ex-Hermana Elena Rodriguez is Relief Society President and Augusto works for the Electric Company here--a fabulous job! They are in the middle of adopting either two or three siblings into their family. The senior Rodriguez's are serving as live-at-home missionaries in the new Welfare Program teaching life and work skills. Our lives have been lifted, filled and energized by these valiant servants of the Lord.
Three Kings' Day
Linda struggled with a bad tooth infection all weekend and by Monday morning, Three Kings' Day, she knew that a dentist was immediately necessary. The Mission President gave us a referral and the earliest appointment available was at 4:00 p.m.
We were invited to the home of some friends from the temple at 6:00 that night for chalupas, Rosca de Reyes, and hot chocolate. We planned on about an hour and a half at the dentists and then were going to drive straight to the party. Finally, after the second set of X-rays and the second consulting dentist, we realized that there would be no partying. We were tied up with consultations and pharmacy searches until after 7:00 p.m. However, the good news is that we found some excellent dentists that know what is wrong, knew what to give me for the infection, and have a plan for putting it all right. Elder Hoffman also has a new skill--he learned to give intra-muscular injections via Internet instruction. Linda had immediate relief and John has a new marketable skill for his retirement years.
On January 8th we bid farewell to Elder and Sister Morris. They have been serving in the Institute as English teachers and class instructors. They have also been a great support to the mission installing water heaters, repairing heaters, making curtains, and acting as the official Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus for the last two Christmases. The next Senior Missionaries to disappear from the local scene will be us.
Happy New Year!
May you have more peace than you need and enough hope to sustain you through 2014.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil,
to give you a future and a hope.