Elder Eric Johnson
2516 Normandy Dr. SE Apt. 304-C
Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Please send letters or packages by First class or Priority Mail via U.S.P.S. so they can be forwarded to him.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

First Week at the Mexico MTC

12 January 2017

Dear family and friends,

Getting to Mexico was pretty easy. I had a layover in Atlanta that was more than enough time to get from gate to gate. The day I left it was raining, so when I was getting ready to board, I was watching the planes take off. I flew first down to Atlanta, so I was also at the front of the long line. 

The two ladies at the front desk were talking their time, so I was able to watch about 6 planes take off before I boarded. I wasn't the first on the plane but I was close. It was really cool watching the planes, because as they'd take off the jet blast out the back of the planes would throw a massive wave of water into the air. Two planes seemed to have been going faster than the others and when they pulled up water condensed out of the air on top of their wings.

On the plane to Mexico I met Elder Conklin and Sister/Hermana Perkins as well as Elder Pearson, my current companion. I was pretty tired and slept nearly the whole way to Mexico. 

I sat next to this kid flying home, he asked me why I was going to Mexico. I told him what I was doing and why and we talked about religion for awhile. At the end of the flight He asked if I had a copy of The Book of Mormon. I was laughing in my head because I can't imagine that giving away a copy of The Book of Mormon will be any easier than it was then. Luckily I had an extra copy and gave it to him.  

The Missionary Training Center is really pretty. It sits on a 90 acre lot in Mexico city, which is a little insane. It's basically an oasis from the craziness of Mexico City.  Ten foot concrete walls with another 8-10 feet of barbed wire fence surround the campus, so we are completely isolated from the city. Wednesday it seemed like something was going on, but we were never told what was going on until the afternoon. Supposedly there were some "security issues" on the other side of the fence. We were later told there was rioting in the city. So if someone could email me some information on the riots that would be great.

Palm trees and this other tree, which I don't know the name of, are scattered all over the campus and like I said before, it's super pretty.

The weather is also super pleasant. It's around 55-65 degrees all day and night, also it is slightly more dry than I was anticipating. We are at about 7000 feet, or so I've been told, but the air doesn't feel as thin as I would've expected. Parakeets fly and nest all over the MTC. They're bright green and super loud sometimes. 

Spanish is kind of interesting. Every single Spanish teacher I've had before now was absolutely horrible. Some were mean but taught way too fast, and others were nice and never taught. We have two sets of teachers, one for language study and one for teaching lessons. Our language teacher is really awesome. Hermana Gonzales served a mission in the San Antonio Texas mission Spanish speaking and was born and raised in Mexico City. The teacher who teaches us how to teach is named Hermano Velallobos. He is about 5 foot 8, slim build and the deepest voice I have ever heard. It's slightly hilarious. 

My companion and my other two roommates are great. It's funny, everyone warned me about bad roommates at BYU-I and bad companions on the mission but so far everyone has been awesome. Two prayed to have dreams in Spanish one night. Elder Forsburg said he had a dream Hermana Gonzales was getting mad at him and talking in reeaally fast Spanish, while Elder Henrikson said he didn't remember any dreams from that night. The only dream I've had so far had to do with flying a float plane and some weird art, but beyond that I couldn't remember much.

The first week here everyone was extra nice. At each meal time, the missionaries that have been here for a longer amount of time come and talk with the guys who just got here. Everyone said if you can make it to Sunday, you're set. The first week is the hardest, but once you get through it you can rely on Sundays, Costco pizza day, and P day to get through the week comfortably. Your first week you don't get a P(reparation day) so it's long and harder than all the others. 
Sunday, as expected, was an awesome day. Sacrament meeting was 75% in Spanish. Before the prayer the person presiding calls on a few missionaries to speak. Everyone gets speaking topics on Thursday so it wasn't horrible. At the very beginning  I was called to say the opening prayer. I heard Johnson, but didn't understand anything else. The Elder behind said I had the prayer. I was way nervous, I had never given a prayer in Spanish without reading, but when it was time I got up and said the prayer in Spanish. It was really short, but I said it all without reading. 

Everyday feels shorter and shorter than the last. Each 15 minute segment is planned out for the whole day, everyday. Never has my life been so organized. The first few days were a little rough. We had no idea what we were doing, or what books to take to each class. We have 12 pounds of materials, from about 20 different books in both Spanish and English, so we didn't really want to take everything everywhere. We later learned we only had one major classroom we used, and we could leave everything there. That was day 3.

We had a devotional our first night and one of the area authorities asked if anyone felt stressed over the past week. About 3/4 of the 300 missionaries here raised there hands. He said that while we are here there is no reason to be stressed. He told us that while we are here we will never have to run 5 miles so fast that we vomit at the end or we go home. Never will we have to take a single test that if we fail we will be sent home.  And never will we have to deal with any situation that if we fail we will be sent home, so there is no reason to stress if we do our best everyday. After the devotional my roommates and I read a chapter from the Book of Mormon. The chapter we read was about the sons of Mosiah and their mission. They preached the word of God to the Lamanites for 14 years, a group of people that would try to kill every Nephite they saw. Missions are around two years long, not 14 years, and we are not preaching to people who want to kill us.

Today we are going to the temple visitor center for a few hours. I'm not sure what we will be doing, because the Mexico temple is currently closed for the next two hours. When I got here I received a tablet, so there might be pictures coming later this afternoon, but no promises. 
Lastly I was able to see my cousin Ben Johnson before he left. I have a picture with us two but I don't know if I will be able to get it off the camera. I also saw him Sunday and was able to give him a goodby hug after we talked for a little bit.

Sorry for any typos, Mexican keyboards have slightly different key locations and the spell check is on Spanish, so I have a wall of red lines.

Questions I can't answer
Why is Christmas pronounced chris-mass and not christ-mas?
My first few days I had some free time to draft this email, so the next few might not be as long.

- my district is 16A for mail. Don't send packages from the United states they get stuck in customs often. There is a service that sends stuff from Mexico, but I don't know what it's called.

A campus view at the MTC

MTC Campus

Who knows the name of this tree?

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