Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Super Glue, Mexican Bleach, and Memorization Volleyball

So my parents always start off their emails by updating me about happenings back home, and I just had to start off this blog by saying: HECK YA BYU!!!! Go Cougars! Even though in our zone there are 4 Hermanas and 3 Elders who will all be attending BYU-Idaho after their missions, and none of them have any respect for BYU-Provo, I just updated them on the BYU football team being ranked. They just make fun of me LOL. I wish I could watch the games!!! Just wait for BYU basketball to start, Haws is gonna be killing it!!! My condolences to all those Ute fans out there, but I was a little happy their football team finally lost. My friend, Cody, has been giving me crap about BYU having an easy schedule and the Utes being 3-0 last week, but alas, not this week LOL. 

All the Elders in the district looking out our classroom windows.
For the first time in my life, I am actually excited to listen to General Conference coming up this weekend. All of the devotionals we've been watching here at the CCM are awesome, so our district is suuuuper excited, even though we're gonna be sitting in the auditorium for 10 hours!!! FUN! Its also suuuper hot in there because of all the missionaries, and any time we go to devotionals or special occasions, we have to wear our suit coats, no taking them off....hard to stay awake -- ha ha.

Me and Hermana Lake.
I strongly believe in keeping all the
mission rules, but nothing against
having an electrifying handshake.

Oh my gosh, so my district has been relentlessly tormenting me about a new friend I made here like they are worried about me or something. But I just need to say for the record that me and Hermana Lake are just super cool friends. She went to BYU-Provo before leaving on her mission, and she's headed back there afterwards, so I'll be able to talk to her more then. However, the coolest part is she's going to the Florida Fort Lauderdale Mission!!!! That's so cool because that's where my dad went on his mission!! She leaves the CCM today, actually, so my district can't make fun of me any more! But we exchanged emails and she emailed me yesterday. We're gonna keep in touch through our missions:), and hopefully in Provo down the road, but don't worry, I'm honestly staying 100% focused, especially with the help of my entire district who loves to make fun of me. They'll say stuff like "Elder Olsen, weve got a scritpure for you" and it would be Alma 39:3 or other ones like that ...LOL.

Elder Gaspar De Alba is the second from the left with the glasses.
He and his companion love to hang out with us and they are super cool!

OK, so now for the stuff I've been up to this week. First, the bad news: So I've only been wearing one pair of shoes since I've been here at the CCM, and the fronts of both shoes are already coming apart. Elder Gaspar De Alba, a guy in our Casa, different district and Zone but one of my fave Elders, let me borrow his super glue...so I've already had to super glue my one pair of shoes. I haven't tried them on since then, but I am now going to rotate every day, so hopefully both pairs will last me a little while, but I think the super glue pair might not make it until Christmas, so I might need a new pair from home for one of my presents.

Another clothing story from this morning actually!!! So I put a pen in my top pocket, like every day, and after maybe four minutes this morning, it leaked like crazy allllll over my shirt, almost got on my tie! I couldn't believe it! There was this huuuuge pen leak blob on my white shirt. I though it was long gone, until Elder Bingham, in our casa but the Zone Leader in a different Zone (in the same room as Elder Bradbeer and Elder Jensen in the Casa), gave me some Mexican bleach and I poured it on it this morning and let it soak for about ten minutes, and it was loooong gone...perfectly good as new! Mexicans have some crazy strong bleach!! So that was a close one....I should've gotten a picture of it, but I was panicking LOL.

Me in my green Fast Sunday tie and tie pin.
Ok, now for the good news. Before the mission, me and my Dad and my brother all got the same green tie to wear on Fast Sundays, kind of as a way to be thinking about and supporting each other. Well, this last week was our second Fast Sunday we've had in the CCM, and I've been wearing my green tie!!! I must say that it looks super good with my suit, that gray and green swagger!

Ok, now for the Spanish. As it turns out, our class is actually an Intermediate Spanish class. Anyone that had ANY background, like high school or something like that, goes to Intermediate! We didn't think it was suuuper hard, so its whatever -- ha ha. However, this week, our teacher said that my pronunciation is amazing! Even when I speak in English, I do the Spanish roll on my Rs and etc. He said I have the best pronunciation he's heard from a 4th week Elder so far in the CCM! Also, I bore my testimony in our Sacrament Meeting yesterday, and it was about 10 minutes long, unwritten, all in Spanish, and when I sat back down I was embarrased because I 100% honestly thought I had accidentally switched to English halfway through. So I asked Elder Ruiz, and he said it was all in Spanish...I was amazed!! My first experience with language where I can't believe I had just done that!

So I also wanted to mention something about our Devotionals we've had these past few weeks. Most weeks, the Devotional takes place at the Provo MTC and is broadcast to everywhere else. But last week, we had a special Devotional here at the Mexico City MTC and it was broadcasted to the other MTCs. The two guys that spoke were the Missionary Department Director and the Executive Director (sorry I couldn't remember their names). They told us all sorts of cool stuff, like the exact process missionary papers go through, and how the Quorum of the 12 decide our mission calls and such. That was super cool! Also, the Devotional we just had this past Sunday was from Elder Bednar and it was SO AMAZING. It was a recording of a Christmas morning devotional from a few years back and it was almost 2 hours long. Everyone was going into it expecting it to be super boring because usually they are only 45 minutes or so, but it was soooo good.

This is Elder Jordan Gustavus and his companion, Elder Wolf,
teaching us how to tie cool knots on the day before he left the CCM.
So because of the time of year, the CCM is dwindling in numbers a little bit. There are still groups of new missionaries coming in every Wednesday, but they are getting smaller now, with bigger groups leaving each Monday. There is probably only half the missionaries here as there were when I arrived -- it's crazy! The last three days, it has been raining INCREDIBLY hard for 2 hours right after dinner, like the power goes out, torrential downpour with the streets flooding!!!

Another short story from yesterday. So after our gym time yesterday, Elder Bronson and Elder Hoffman both beat me and Ruiz out of our Casa, so in order to beat them back to the classroom, we went out the backdoor and ran behind the casas! Well, caught up in the adrenaline, I didnt look where I was stepping, plus it is like hidden beneath a layer of super green grass, is a big ole mud hole! I stepped in with one foot, and mud SPRAYED up my back side. It got midway up my back, and all over my pants and shoes and up my socks. I didn't go back and change. I still went to the classroom, and it was awesome, kind of. People took pictures of me, no one in my district though so I don't have a copy that I can send to you, and I sat in class for about an hour like that. I had laundry today, though, so all is well! Good times. 

To finish it up this week, I would like to share my thoughts so far about being away from home: I don't think I can fall asleep without the serenade of gunshots and car horns every night; I don't think I can shower without critters swimming around my feet; I don't think I would want to hang out in my room without the mosquitos driving us crazy; or, especially this, eat any of my 3 meals a day without loading them full of hot sauce (Valentina btw, the best stuff). One of my favorite parts of the day is writing in my journal at night, its all of our favorite thing to do here, and I can't really do a good adventurous journal at home! 

Our district likes volleyball so much that I made up this game called "Memorization Volleyball."
Every time we hit the paper ball, we have to say the First Vision or a baptismal invitation or
something in Spanish. It's sooo awesome. We play it for our last half hour of language study most nights
and it works great for memorizing!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Temple, Cookies, and Prayer

Bus ride to the temple.
So today we got to go to the Mexico City Temple! It is being renovated until like next July, so we didn't get to do any sessions, but we were able to tour the Visitor's Center and temple grounds. The temple is about a one-hour drive from the CCM, so we got to see lots of Mexico City! Some parts were pretty sketchy, some looked cool, and some super urban stuff. At the Visitor's Center store, I had heard they had some cool ties and I was hoping to buy one, but they actually only had a couple of ties to choose from that just weren't for me. Instead, I got a really cool backpack for 150 pesos -- sweeeeeet!!!

Mexico City
More of Mexico City
So my parents are awesome! I got a package of fresh-basked chocolate chip cookies on Wednesday. They were so soft and tasty. There were 35 cookies in the package! It must have cost them a fortune. I shared a few, but I still have like half of them left. My companion, Elder Ruiz, gets packages like literally every other day, from either his mom or his grandmother. He's gotten 8 packages so far (but who's counting)..... It's insane! AND it's a good thing he shares with his amazing companion. His mom even sent him another 12-pack of Dr. Pepper, which is my favorite, so I am sure glad he shares.

The MTC is treating me very well. I'm really getting the hang of it, and I love being the District Leader! Although this last week I had my roughest day so far. On Sunday, I don't know if I was dehydrated, or sleep exhausted, or everything all mixed together, but I was incredibly unhappy for I don't know what reason. Everyone was getting on my nerves; I was frustrated about some stupid things; and I was actually scaring myself. But I prayed for help, and after like 25 minutes, I seriously started to see myself calming down. It was strange, but I know my prayer was answered. It was still a really rough day though.

The Mexico City Temple grounds were beautiful.
Elder Ruiz has gotten a little better with his Spanish. Yesterday, when we taught our investigator, we got feedback saying, "Elder Olsen is doing a fantastic job, but Elder Ruiz needs to be in charge of the next lesson," so that's a little frustrating. I don't mind being able to give the entire 45-minute lessons, because its super good learning for me. But I'm trying to help him out too. I am sure it will come eventually.

So, the food is not getting a whole lot better (will it ever?), but I'm getting more used to it. I go into the cafeteria expecting the worst, and it usually turns out better than I had thought it would. In fact, for lunch today, I had a Pastel de Papa (potato cake), and it tasted OK... with some hot sauce LOL.

Me and my comp, Elder Ruiz
There's a new Elder who arrived last week who went to Lone Peak High School and played on their basketball team, so it has been awesome to talk with him. He said when he gets back from his mission, he is going to try and walk-on and play at BYU on their basketball team. He is an amazing basketball player. He has four state title rings, and 1 national championship ring! He is super cool to talk to. I had another one of my friends arrive this past week, too. His name is Andrew Earl and we served together last year at Copper Hills in PLT. It has been great to see him too.

All the Elders from District 5A
at the Mexico City Temple Visitor's Center
My cousin, Trevor, has been emailing me each week, so me and him are talking! He's giving me great advice and just making sure I'm alright :). I appreciate his letters. I also found out my aunt and uncle were in Mexico last week, and I can't believe they didn't bring something good to eat?!? Even if they were in Puerto Vallarta or somewhere far away, that is still in Mexico.

Selfie in front of the Mexico City Temple.
Last night I watched my first 'tie trade' experience. I didn't trade any ties, but I saw some deals go down! However, the biggest news of the week is that my watch is already destroyed. I dropped it on the concrete a few days ago which caused a tiny little crack in the corner of the glass. It didn't bother me too much, but then the very next day, I dropped it on the tile floor and the whole glass front shattered! So then I took some pliers and carefully took all the glass pieces off, so then it just looked kind of ghetto when I wore it. But then yesterday, the little metal piece that 'clicks' the watchband on and off broke off too -- just out of normal use! So now the watchband won't click shut and the watch won't stay on my wrist. I guess you could say it is now basically a pocket watch..... QUE TRISTE!!!! :( So I'm watch-less, and now sure how to get another one. I checked the CCM tienda, but they only have girl watches. I was tempted for half a second to just get a girls watch, but they were all mostly pink or aqua blue -- yuck.

I miss home, but I'm really loving the work out here. Hopefully, I won't have any more scary days like last Sunday, but I'm surviving more or less. I can't wait to get into the Nicca land!
Taking a break from our studies.
A little different perspective of our district.
Favorite pic of the week: "Si se puede."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mexican Independence Day and Real Fireworks

Just hanging out in the cafeteria with my district
Watching the fireworks from the casa roof
Everything has been going great here!!! My district has really been settling in now and starting to get the hang of things. We're no longer the first-weekers: we know all the stuff to do and aren't lost anymore -- LOL. We have so much stuff to do all the time thought! Being the District Leader has been a little tough at times -- I have to be the ¨mean¨guy sometimes and make sure they aren't talking all the time when we are supposed to be studying, and I attend more meetings than everyone else. It's a lot more responsibility than I was expecting going straight into the MTC, but I really enjoy it. Mostly because I have such an awesome district!!!

Waiting in line with my district for
the Mexican Independence Day Program
So yesterday and today was Mexico's Independence Day. We had a program last night where some performers came and showed us some traditional dances. Plus, they gave us Costco muffins with our dinner!!! That's right -- they have a Costco here in Mexico City! Every Tuesday, we get served pizzas from Costco, which is almost as good as back home. The pizza is a little different than back home, but it's still definitely the best meal of the week.  So anyway, with Independence Day, people were going NUTS outside the CCM walls. It was so hard to sleep last night!!! This time they were lighting off actual fireworks (mostly), but they don't have cool fireworks here -- they are mostly just really loud fireworks and not very big or colorful, so it wasn't as cool as I hoped it would be. We even went up on the roof of our casa to watch the fireworks and celebration. I tried to take pictures, but the flash on my camera drowned everything out. Everyone at the CCM was wearing red, green, or white ties or skirts to celebrate. Pretty fun!! 

One of the traditional Mexican dances
I was sorry to hear about Mia Poulsen's car accident last week. My thoughts and prayers go out to her and her family. She used to live in the lower part of our neighborhood, and I went on a school dance once in the same group of friends with her. That's super scary and I hope she gets better soon.

Such awesome Zone Leaders!
Elder Dahl (on the right) is hilarious!
AND he's going to BYU after his mission too!
My spanish is doing so much better!!!! If i get in the zone I can really speak well and remember the words. My poor companion, though, he is struggling to get the hang of it. For example, yesterday we taught a new investigator for the first time and I've been trying to get Elder Ruiz to "take the lead" but he just can't. I literally talked in Spanish for about 25 minutes of the 30-minute-lesson. It's a little frustrating for him. Our review on the lesson was that I teach too much of the lesson, but it's partly because he forgets where he wrote down the Spanish (he hasn't quite learned it yet), or her forgets the words and sits there quietly. Otherwise we have been getting great reviews so that makes me feel better.

Me and Elder Paulino before he shipped out.
He is from the Dominican Republic, and no lie, he has been
the funniest Elder here -- he no hablas mucho Ingles though....
All the Elders in our casa before the Latino Elders left.
I've been playing so much volleyball!!!!!! Our district ALWAYS plays volleyball for gym every day, I am the guy everyone puts on the front row because my nickname is ¨spike city¨-- LOL. One day last week, it was raining soooo bad that the sand volleyball pit (which is where we always play) was like a little lake filled with water halfway up our calves. We played volleyball anyways!!! SOAKING wet, but soooo much fun! I also kick butt at ping pong here, too. Last night after the festival, our favorite district in our Zone who we usually played volleyball with, District 5D, all left the CCM and headed out for the mission field. Most of them are going to the United States, and almost all of them are going to BYU Provo after their missions! Also, all of the native (Spanish-speaking) missionaries in our casa left this week. They only stay for two weeks. They LOVED talking to us, se we all became very close. 
The lunch today actually wasn't too bad
compared to normal -- enchiladas and rice.
One last pic with District 5D (selfie style)

This is the pub behind our casa that has loud parties EVERY night!
I guess you could say I'm really liking it here. It's 100x better than I thought it was gonna be. I haven't really been homesick, but I miss home a lot.  Except for maybe the food.... which I believe is getting worse. At times, I feel like I'm getting used to it, but then other times the food is......ew, so I just make myself some Nutella sandwiches instead.  I can't wait for Nicaragua! Tell everyone at home 'hello,' but don't worry about ole Alex -- I'm doing great here at the old CCM! 

Just singing in the rain!
This is where we play Cage Soccer

Hey, it's Abbey Road at the CCM!
(I even tried the Paul McCartney look with my shoes off)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Surprise Calling, Fireworks, and Lots of Amigos!

So que pasa everyone?! Hola from Mexico City! Can I just say that this place is great? I have so many stories to tell. I've been trying to remember all of them for when I could email home today.

This is my room.
First day in the CCM
So, on my second day here, they call all the new districts in for interviews with the Zone Presidency, one by one. I couldn't believe it after the interviews when they called me to be the District Leader!!! I couldn't believe it! Our district is District 5A. I get to lead off all the discussions and make sure all the other missionaries are doing well and comfortable and on task and such. At first, I was not super excited, thinking I was going to have to be the "mean guy" that has to tell everyone to quit goofing off, but its not really that bad. I mostly just have more responsibilities, like checking our district's mailbox, a few leadership meetings to attend on Tuesdays and Sundays, and I really like it now!!!

OK, so the food ... not the greatest ... every meal is some type of Mexican food, and it is definitely not Cafe Rio let me tell you. The worst meal so far was a breakfast where they gave us this big piece of bread with crusty refried beans and mozzarella cheese melted on top -- its meals like that where I just get a lot of fruit and the all-amazing nutella and peanut butter sandwich. The best meal so far was actually yesterday's lunch when they served us hamburgers! Oh my gosh that was sooooo good compared to everything else we've had. But don't worry, I'm surviving.

Helping to uplift my comp -- Elder Ruiz
My companion is Elder Ruiz. He is from Sacramento, California and you would think from his last name that he would speak Spanish, but he doesn't. His father is from Mexico, but Elder Ruiz never learned Spanish. So it's hilarious how many people talk to him in Spanish and expect him to understand, but he doesn't yet. LOL.

Our most excellent district. I love these guys!
So in my room, there is me and Elder Ruiz, along with Elder Hoffman (from the airport) and his companion Elder Bronson who is from Idaho Falls. Elder Bronson is seriously one of the funniest people I have ever met. We all live in a "casa" and there are 5 rooms in the casa. It's a pretty sweet set-up. All of the Elders in my district are going to the Nicaragua Managua South Mission. There are also 4 hermanas in my district, with two of them going to Nicaragua Managua South and the other two going to Chicago. They are all SO cool! It took us like three days to break the ice, but now we are all friends and really close. In my district, then, there is me and Elder Ruiz, Elder Hoffman, Elder Bronson, Elder Bradbeer (yes that is his name -- it's awesome), Elder Jensen (from the airport), and then Hermana Powell and Hermana Haws going to our mission, with Hermana DeBuck and Hermana Capps going to Chicago. They are all so cool!!!!

So I'm not going to lie. Before I got here, I was expecting the CCM to be miserable, like a boring, strict church camp, but I was very, very wrong. This place is amazing! I haven't been noticing what I don't have anymore (my phone, Call of Duty, decent food, etc.), but I'm so surprised on what we do get. There is so much fun time here, and gym is awesome. They don't let anyone dunk on the basketball rims, but I school the other Elders from the 3-point line -- ha ha. But I'm really having a great time here. The Spirit is so strong. I've never been so happy about a decision. I haven't even really felt homesick yet, but I did cry a little when I was showing my district the pictures of my family. In fact, nobody in my district has really been homesick yet -- nobody's crying at night or anything like that.

One thing that really sucks, though, is waking up at 6:30 AM ... ugg. I'm the first one to take a shower, so literally within 10 seconds of the alarm ringing, I have to be in the bathroom. (I usually have my stuff in there the night before ready to go in the morning). We have a system so all of us in our casa can get up and showered and ready to go by 7:00 AM.

My casa is on the right, and behind it is the outer wall.
If you listen carefully, you might hear the honking and the 'fireworks.'
Some of my friends from Copper Hills High School:
Elder Tucker, Elder Macy, and Elder Hirschi
Also, the rumor of the gunshots at night outside the walls are actually true! Every night we hear a handful of gunshots, or as the MTC workers say "fireworks" -- ha ha. Like, the shots are so distinct and clear. We laugh every time because its not something we are used to hearing on a regular basis. Our casa is right on the edge of the campus by one of the outer walls. On the other side of the wall is a busy road so sometimes I have a really hard time sleeping at night. If you look out or the window in our bedroom, the wall it about 15 feet away, so the combination of lots of honking (Mexicans honk their horns a lot!) and it's really hot ... I've been struggling to get enough sleep, but don't worry, I got this. I haven't been sick yet, but Elder Ruiz was yesterday and Elder Jensen was throwing up this morning. I am glad my mom sent me with some vitamins -- I started taking them so I hope I don't get sick!

So the tienda here has all sorts of candy and stuff, but it is Mexican candy. Not quite the same as American candy. I've had to get a few things already, like hangars (I forgot to pack any hangars LOL) and a Spanish hymn book. I also got a cool Mexico CCM T-shirt! The MTC gives us 100 pesos per week, plus if I need extra I have a few pesos I brought with me from home.

Elder Hartvigsen and me. He is from Alpine.
I found out that we will be flying out to Nicaragua on October 14th, but no return home date yet like my sister Erin had when she left the Provo MTC. I found a few of my friends from high school, and also my neighbor, Jordan Gustavus, while I have been here. Plus there is an Elder here from Alpine who knows my cousins there. Oh -- the Spanish!!! Uggg! Spanish is so hard right now. I am starting to get the hang of it a little bit. The FIRST day of classes (Wednesday), Elder Ruiz and I had to teach an investigator in Spanish!!! It was sooo hard ... we have to give her a lesson every day we have classes (not on P-Days or Sundays). She doesn't speak any English, and the lessons have to be for a half hour! Es muy deficil....

Elder Gustavus and me
I know I'm forgetting so many more stories to tell, but I will try to remember them and tell you more next Tuesday. I'm used to talking to all my friends and telling them the cool stuff that happens to me as soon as it happens, but now I have to remember it until the next Tuesday. Well, hopefully everyone is doing well at home. I hope you are all OK. Don't worry about me -- I am surviving, and loving it here! Thanks again for all the emails of support and encouragement.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bienvenido Mexico City!

I should start off thanking my Stake President for a wonderful blessing when I was set apart as a missionary last night. I also received some great advice from my family, my bishop, and the Stake President. I was promised health and a love for missionary work and the people of Nicaragua. Afterwards, I went home and finished packing until it was time to leave for the airport.

Arriving at the Salt Lake City Airport, Tuesday, 10:50 PM.

My flight was scheduled to depart for Atlanta at 12:56 AM early Wednesday morning, so we left for the airport about 10:30 PM Tuesday night. When we arrived, it was a relief to see other missionaries already there saying goodbye to their families. In fact, there were three other missionaries all going to the Nicaragua Managua South Mission just like me -- Elders Hansen, Jensen, and Hoffman. There was also another missionary going to the Mexico City MTC with us, but he was called to serve in the Denver Colorado Mission.

We spent an hour visiting with the other missionaries and their families, and then it was time to say goodbye to my family. Everyone was crying at one point or another.
Elders Hansen, Jensen, Hoffman, and me all headed for
Managua Nicaragua South via the Mexico City MTC.

Me and my family at the airport.
We flew on Delta Airlines, and it was sweet because we got a snack and beverage, and all of the seats had a touch screen computer that I could play games on. There was a lady sitting next to me who also asked me a lot of questions and talked to me quite a bit throughout the flight. The pilot was also awesome because when we landed, he announced over the intercom that everyone on the flight needed to go to the international terminal to catch their next flight, so he dropped us all off at the international terminal. As a result, it was a 2-minute walk to find our next gate, and none of the workers were even there yet (nor was our next airplane).

With all of that extra time, me and a couple of my travel companions hit the McDonald's for our last meal on American soil for a while. Can I just say I have never seen so many African American people in my life than I did in Atlanta? I guess I have never been farther east than Moab, Utah, so my educational experience has already begun.

Once we landed in Mexico City, it became quite clear that we arrived in the middle of their hurricane season as it was raining hard. On our drive to the MTC it seemed more like a boat ride because a lot of the streets were so flooded. 
My little brother and sister were a little sad to see me go.
They tried to keep me from leaving, but
it didn't work.
The Mexico City MTC is big and its already a lot to take in. The good news is that as soon as we pulled onto the campus, I saw my friend Jordan Gustavus walking with his companion, but he was a ways away. I'm sure I'll see more of him later.

Me and my mom.
Well, they let me send this quick email to let everyone know I made it OK, but I'm out of time. I'll write again on P-Day, which I think they said is Tuesdays here. Sure love my family and friends, and thank you to everyone who has made it possible for me to be here, or perhaps I should say "Gracias."
On my way through security.