Thursday, June 13, 2013

Catching Up: Part II

Remember that guy I was talking about in the last post? He's gonna show up in this post a few times. Ok, maybe a lot of times. It's ok though. He's kind of important to me.

A few days before I got home from Mexico, my mother emailed me this picture. This is Austin Maxwell.
Someone got a picture of me when I first looked at this picture and couldn't stop smiling because he was home (I can tell cause that is his little brother sitting beside him)! I don't know where that picture is, but maybe one of these days it will show up.

After he went off to be a missionary for two years, I couldn't believe that he was home already. Had time really gone that fast? I thought it was yesterday that I said goodbye before we hopped into planes headed in opposite directions! Oh wait, I had the letters and pictures to prove that yes, two years had really passed.

Once I stepped on American soil, I texted his sister just to say that I could text now that I was in the US. Her reply was a phone call. I was put on speakerphone because everyone was in the car and wanted to talk to me. Amongst the many Maxwell voices, I could hear one in particular that gave me chills when he said my name. "Hey, Madi!"

Needless to say, I was pretty excited. And really, REALLY, nervous. It would be a few days later and then I'd see him in person. I couldn't wait to get to New York but I still had some worries. There were a lot of "what ifs" floating around my brain. Despite these worries, I still got on the plane. And got off it. And saw him, ran to him, hugged him, and probably scared the bejeebers out of this new returned missionary. He stuck around though, so I'm pretty sure I didn't scare him too much. All was well, and I had a wonderful week with him, his family, my brother, and my mother.

But wait friends. The story doesn't end here. 

Fast forward to the beginning of the school semester in Provo. This boy turned man and girl turned woman start spending more time together. We go on adventures. We're silly together. We laugh and smile. We picked up right where we left off two years ago. But something is different this time. I am trying to take things nice and slow, while in the back of my mind, I can't help but think of the future. I tell myself to be patient and wait. 

And now you too get to be patient and wait to hear the rest of the story. ;) 

To be continued... 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Catching Up: Part I

It's been forever since my last post. So I'm catching up with it all, starting with finishing my volunteer work in Mexico. 

Day 128: My last moments in Mexico

Can you believe that I spent over a hundred days outside of the United States? Oh wait... Missionaries do it all the time. Guess I've got more ground to cover. However, I am grateful for the time I spent with the other volunteers, kids, and my host family. I can definitely say that I would do it again. 

A while back ago I asked people for their questions about my experience. These are some of the questions I got. 

How hard was it to be away from your family in a country where you didn't speak the language when you arrived?
- Honestly, the first 10 days were a blast because it was my vacation! I didn't really think about it too much at first. When I got into Tehuacan though, it was a little rough to get used to not having someone in my host family be able to speak very good English. In the weeks that followed, I noticed that what I missed most was talking with my Mom. Just sitting in the kitchen and having a conversation. I'll be glad when I get home to have conversations in English again. Talking with the friends here was nice too, but you really can't beat those conversations you have in person with someone you know really, really well. Despite this, I still loved my time in Mexico. I was even able to learn spanish to the point where I could have conversations with my host mom. Kinda. 

What was the most creative teaching tool you employed to get your message across to your class?
- The objective when I teach is to get the children to speak. All the time. At the
elementary level, it's a little more advanced and they're speaking complete sentences. So you think of all the creative ways to get them to speak, and learn how to fix "translation errors" in their speech. Most creative teaching tool? Utilizing the kid's own imaginations. The kids loved making movies, stories, and we even made a video game set out of cardboard. That one was my favorite actually. They would make the screen (no shoot-em-up games), we'd "plug in" our controllers, and we'd have to say what was going on in the game. I don't think I've ever gotten so much speech out of them that spontaneously.

What was the funniest thing that happened while you were teaching?
- Lots of funny things happen. I have a whole list of funny things that my kids said or did.
There is one incident that I still laugh about, though. It was actually quite horrifying at the time, but now everyone laughs about it.
One day, I'm in the middle of teaching and from the other room I start to hear screaming. Miss Cassie comes out and says, "Where's Kaylie? Or Carol?"
She goes to find one of them and I look into her room to see her kids all staring and pointing at a ceiling corner. There, in the corner, was this big, ugly, moth. About the size of your hands put together, they look like goth butterflies on steroids. They told us in training that there was going to be some scary bugs in Mexico but the people wouldn't be afraid of them, so we shouldn't be either. That, my friends, is a total myth that I'll bust for you right now. Those kids were as scared of this black monster as I was. It was causing enough of a distraction that Cassie went to go and find someone or something to get the thing out of there. She comes back, armed with a broom, and begins to try to sweep it out towards my door. That's when the chaos began.
This butterfly didn't actually do as we thought it would. As soon as it was disturbed from it's perch, it quickly darted around the room, making all the children scream in surprise and run into my room before it could get them. Poor little Ricky hid under the table in Cassie's room, while the butterfly made into my room, up in one of my corners.
Someone else had the broom in their hand at this point... It may have been Erik (one of my kids). They tried to move it again, and this time it got some victims. Ricky tried to get into my room at that time and ended up with a butterfly in his face. After it had attacked Ricky, it moved onto my hair as I was in the doorway too. We both screamed and it made a final landing next to one of the lights in my room. No more mister nice guys. The broom went up and destroyed the butterfly. The gross part was that it turned into a kind of dust that you could see in the air. EW! Close your mouths kids! It took a few minutes to recover from the ordeal, but now that I think about it, we've never seen another butterfly in that part of the school again. You can see the remains of it in the picture to the right. 

What do you miss most about Mexico?
The places I was able to see were amazing. However, nothing can really compare to the people I was able to befriend there. 

It's the people that make the biggest difference in your life. My fellow teachers, the kids I had the privilege of teaching, and my host family and their friends are the ones that I will miss the most because they had the most  impact on my life.  

My last day in Mexico was a tough one. The night before was a little heartbreaking as I spent that night with my sisters, eating pizza and watching spanish soaps. Leslie didn't want me to go but I tried to let her know that it would be ok and that I wasn't really that far away from her. She and her family would always be in my heart and they hadn't seen the last of me. She told me to come back for her quinceanera. I am planning on it. My host parents dropped me off at the bus station that morning and they gave me a letter. I hugged them both and got on the bus, taking everything in. I was leaving what had been my home for four months. All the adventures and fun times were swirling around in my mind.
Being sick from the night before and the feeling of it all being a dream, this picture is a pretty good summary of how I felt that day. 
We all eventually went our separate ways, but not before sharing the last of Janessa's almonds. Weird, I know but it was our first treat together and our last. We're sentimental like that. Love those girls to pieces.

I got home safe. I celebrated my return to the states with my family and another family via telephone. The first person I called when I got to America? My mom. Of course! The second one actually called me. It was the Maxwells! I was so excited to talk to all of them, especially one in particular. ;) A few days earlier, he had gotten home from a two year mission in Sweden. This phone call would be the first one we shared privately in two years. But more on him later... This post is supposed to be about Mexico! 

That's it folks! That was my adventure in Mexico! If you're dying to see more pictures of the kids or of Mexico, there's a million more on my facebook page. Those kids are so darn cute and the places we went were so darn cool, I completely understand if you want to stalk me a little. No worries. 

So now that I'm all caught up with Mexico, what happens next? You'll find out in Part II. Until then, don't forget to LOVE LIKE CRAZY!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Day 110: Juntos por Siempre

Lazy Sundays like today have become days that I actually really enjoy. Being able to go to my ward in the morning, come home to my sisters still in their pajamas, and sit and read a good chunk of the Book of Mormon in Spanish, is what I would call a very relaxing day and an opportunity to ponder... A lot.

Lately, I have not been able to get a certain hymn out of my head. It has significance to current situations but I just didn't know why it was this particular song. Well today I figured out how to get it out (not that I don't like hymns in my head, I'm just making room for a new one to obsess about). I often get these feelings like I need to write. Mostly when that happens, I wrote songs. Today in church, I wrote some of a new arrangement to the hymn "Families Can be Together Forever". The actual music is still in the works but I can at least provide the lyrics:

I have a family here on earth
They are so good to me
I want to share my life with them
For all eternity

Families can be together forever
Through Heavenly Father's plan
I always want to be
With my own family
And The Lord has shown me how I can
The Lord has shown me how I can

I have a family (I have a family)
Not always close to me (always close to me)
I know that heaven holds for us (heaven holds for us)
A grand eternity

Families can be together forever
Through Heavenly Father's plan
We're always going to be
With our own family
And The Lord has shown us how we can
The Lord has shown us how we can

The lyrics aren't changed much, but I added a little verse. You really can't mess too much with already perfect lyrics. So far, I like it... Kinda. I don't really love my work till its done.

So I've reflected a lot on the concept of eternal families. It's a very unique concept to my religion. A promise that you and your family will be together in heaven is very reassuring in a world that would try to make me think otherwise. Life will throw curveballs at you, and some of those balls may even hit and bruise you. In the end, it doesn't really matter all too much when all that really mattered is in heaven with you.

Being away from family is a little difficult for me at the moment, but I know I'm not really that far away because I'm always there in spirit. My prayers go out to them in their moment of trial and uncertainty. My family reminds me of a scripture in 1 John 4:18.
"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear..."
Fearless people are not the people who aren't afraid of anything. They are the people who love and know the right things, and therefore have nothing to fear. I have many fearless family members who have shown their courage. I hope I can have a family of my own that loves as fearlessly as they do.

Here's to families that stick together. Cause we're stuck together no matter what. ;)

I love (and miss) my family like crazy.

Ps: the pic is to show my feast after the fast... Nothing like a good book and a signature Miller grilled cheese sandwich on a lazy Sunday like this. Mom, your sandwiches are still superior tasting, but I tried. ;)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Day 108: Pan y Mi Villano Favorito

Guess what? IT'S FRIDAY!
No this is not actually me, but I totally wish it was. Anyways. 

Today was a great morning cause we got to go and make... 


Ok, so that's not as exciting as it sounds, but honestly, you've heard me rant about the bread here being so good, it shouldn't surprise anyone that I was excited to make it. 

From Left to Right: Alfredo, (Can't remember), Martin
Originally, we tried to go to one of the higher end stores that are more industrialized. They said no to letting us watch though. Boo, you. That's ok though cause we ended up going to our usual little family owned shop. They were nice enough to show us how it's done.

There is a giant mixer hidden in that left hand corner where they mix their ingredients. Yeast, flour, sugar, some other ingredient that I can't remember.... but all in all, simple ingredients. The secret actually isn't in the dough though. 

It's in the oven. El horno leyna (I think that's how you spell leyna).  This kind of oven mostly looks like a pizza oven to me, and is only used in the small family owned businesses. That's why they taste so much better. They let the dough rise for 2 hours, then stick it in the horno for 15 minutes. It was pretty hot. I could feel the heat from where I was standing with my camera. 

After their quick explanation, he handed us a chunk of dough. This is when things got fun. We rolled the dough on the huge cutting board, put some butter on the pan and on top of the bread, and then squished the top layer on that, either in chocolate or vanilla. Of course, I chose chocolate. After squishing the dough, we took this metal thing that has the conch design on it and pressed that into the dough. Woo, done!

 Totally looks professional right? Yeah. Now all we had to do was wait and come back later. 

Fast forward to 2 in the afternoon. 

We went back and were so excited to see our beautiful creations!
And they tasted wonderful! I don't always like conchs but when they're fresh baked, they're pretty darn good. 

After this yummy bread, we decided to watch a well loved movie. Despicable Me! I love this movie a lot. It's got some of my favorite quotes in there. 


"Let's go destroy another game!"

"Aww, my catipillar didn't turn into a butterfly!"
"That's a cheeto."

"He punched my shark!"
"(insert anything the minions do or say)"

It's a great movie to brighten anyone's day. Feeling sad? Go watch this movie. Or Megamind. Or any Disney movie ever. Go ahead. Do it. You'll feel better, I promise. 

So far, a pretty good Friday if I do say so myself. :)

Just lovin' life like crazy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Day 103: Weekend Overview Part 2

We wake up in anticipation for the day. Get ready, eat breakfast, ride the elevator with the cool buttons that made me feel like a secret agent, the whole deal in order to be ready at the time that the host family we were traveling with said that they would be leaving. At 8, we knocked on the room next to us to see if they were ready. Nope. 30 more minutes... Nope. 30 more minutes after that... Yes! Let's go!

We get going and start the adventure. It begins at the train, which was really a Max, which made me a little homesick. 

No worries though. Ok, worries considering that Mexico City is pretty dangerous, especially for a group of obvious white girls, even when we had a Mexican family to be our guide. We kept a tight hold on all our things and were very careful to stick together. Safety First! While waiting for our train, I actually said a little prayer. Let us be safe. 

We got to the Zocalo without incident (yay!) and were astonished to see the Zocalo of all Zocalos. 
 The pictures don't even quite capture the enormity of the place. It was huge! It was kind of like a Mexican version of New York, New York. 

This picture needs a little explaining I suppose. There are always people who are asking us if we speak English and if they can interview us or take a picture with us. This just happened to be a group of teenage boys who wanted a picture. I figured I'd get a picture too, wishing that I had done this from the start! I'd have many, many more pictures if I had done that. Oh well. 

We looked inside the church...
Honestly, the pictures don't capture the sheer grandness of this church. It was kind of like the one in Puebla or Taxco. Huge and filled with gold covered everything. 

And we were even offered to take mass. The lady was kind of shocked when we said, "No gracias." But she understood when we said that we were LDS. So we didn't stay in the church very long. I kind of wanted to see it though. See how other churches worship. 

Next stop was just around the corner in the Templo Mayor. These were the underground ruins just sitting right in the middle of the city. How cool is that? Actually, I thought the wall was the prettiest thing in that area. Such a cool mural! I love murals, and there are so many of them in Mexico, it's awesome!
There was this cool well that people would throw coins in to try to get it in the hole. I.... totally missed it by a long shot. 

Next to the ruins, there was this huge museum filled with tons of artifacts. Commence photo sequence. 

There were also these lovely guys all over the place. I wanted a picture with one, but we didn't take the time to stop...

At this time, it was around lunchtime, so we searched for street vendors. However, they are much more elusive than in other cities that we've been in. Finally, we found a place that sold... well I honestly don't know what they were called. Basically it was a huge flat crunchy corn tortilla (like the size of a plate) with beans, cactus, cheese, and of course, salsa rojo. I decided to be brave and try the spicy food. My verdict: even after 3 months in a place where everything is spicy, I still don't like spicy food. But gosh darnit, I paid 20 pesos for it and I was going to eat the whole thing! Best part... I couldn't. My mouth was on fire and my stomach was beginning to complain too. Yep. Still don't like spicy food. 

Now, I don't have a whole lot of pictures from the next part of our adventure. Amanda got one though! I should have taken some but it was probably best I didn't take out my nice camera. I'll do my best to describe what transpired next. 

We went shopping in the biggest mercado I've ever seen in my life. The one in San Cristobol de las Casas was pretty big but paled in comparison to this section of the city with streets dedicated to their own theme. One street filled with toys, another just for handbags, another for clothes, another for scarfs and shoes, Christmas decorations, random things, everything! It didn't look like it would end! We would turn corners to find another even bigger section of the mercado. And it was FILLED with people. There were people everywhere! I was glad we had Kaylie's host family there with us because I would've actually been really scared of it all. I still was pretty overwhelmed at the whole thing. 

To get to one side of the mercado, we had to pass through this ally filled with a bunch of guys. These guys were harmless and just threw out the usual cat calls. Kissing noises, "chicas guapas", etc, etc. Then I heard it. From a guy behind me I heard him say, "I love you!" Quick as  a flash, I turned, pointed, and answered, "And I love you too random citizen!" I felt accomplished that I finally got to use my Megamind quote. 

I also learned a pretty funny joke from one of the market vendors. 

"What does carro mean in spanish?"
"Uh.. car?"
"Ok, and what does hombre mean?"
"So Carman is a transformer?"

hehehe yay dumb jokes. 

After a little while in the mercado, it was time to head back to the max. Here's where my story hits a sour spot.

To get to the stairs down to the Train, we had to pass through another ally behind the little tents, this one ended up being less friendly. We were in our tight line, Kaylie's host family in the front with the five of us behind them. Me and Kaylie were at the front of the white girls, following closely behind Mario, her host dad. All of the sudden, I see Mario with his hands up in the air, and four guys surrounding him, searching his pockets. They get what they wanted and leave, one of them with a gun in his hand. Too shocked to actually do anything, I froze, waited for them to pass, then walked very quickly with the rest of the family down into the train station, praying that no one else would target us. For the first time in my life, I'd witnessed a gun being used for evil. And it honestly made me so scared, I cried a little. I've seen guns before, even fired off a shotgun, but this incident shattered my trust in people again. I realize now that I have been extremely fortunate to have never had an incident like that here in Mexico until Mexico City. It was definatly an eye opener. My prayer earlier in the day was answered, seeing as no one got hurt, and even more surprising, us white girls were not targeted. Very grateful for prayer, I can tell you that much. 

We get on the train and try to forget the situation ever happened. Looking out the window, I was very excited that we were going home tonight... or so I thought. 

They told us that we were going to stay for one more night. D: To add salt to the wound, they suggested we go see Breaking Dawn: Part 2. :P So they dragged me into seeing it. The only truly awesome thing about the movies was that I got to share a jumbo box of Acarmelitas with Amanda, who also wasn't too thrilled to be seeing the movie. She turned out to be the perfect movie buddy as we laughed at the horrible acting, Kraft Singles cheesy lines, and the oh so charming Kirsten Stuart. At least the popcorn was amazing!

We all squished into a little living room for the night. After this whole day, sleep came quite easily to me. And so ends our second day in the crazy Mexico City. 

Love my crazy, awful, beautiful life like crazy!