Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Week 5 - My Last Week in Mexico

Hello friends and family,

Happy Wednesday!  I am writing you all from the midst of a very busy P day. Already this morning, I have done a weeks worth of laundry, eaten two meals, completed a mock pack and weighed all of my luggage, went to the CCM tienda, and even got a haircut! It isn´t even 1 o´clock yet, and despite the busy nature of today, I have been lucky to find some time to reflect a little bit about my experiences thus far, and to think ahead about the adventures that await me in Ecuador. I am really starting to become very excited about leaving! I retrieved my travel plans yesterday, and that really only fueled the flames. 

This coming Monday night, I will be going with my district to the reception/meeting place in the CCM at 9:50 PM. We will load up onto a bus and then head for the Mexico City airport, saving time to check in and navigate the Spanish hallways. I will be flying on a plane that departs at 1:28 AM, with an airline called Avianca, to Bogota, Columbia. After a 90 minute layover I will get on another plane that should have me arriving to Quito, Ecuador at about 10 AM. I know that it will be one exhausting day, but I can´t help being incredibly enthusiastic. It only makes things sweeter that I will be flying with all the guys that I have bonded with over the last 6 weeks here in Mexico, since we will all be going to the same mission.

I mentioned that today has been a day of reflection. If I had to sum up the last 38 days away from my family and friends, it would be: change. Although, don´t take that in a negative connotation. Change is the catalyst for growth and improvement. I have grown in so many ways and in so many ways that I would have never expected. I have grown in my ability to live alone. I have grown in my confidence to adapt to challenge and hardship. I have grown in the Spanish language. I have grown in my people skills and sociability. I have grown in so many important and amazing things. It is becoming quickly apparent to me that these growths are just little sample size doses of the type  of person I will be for the rest of my life. And I kind of really like that.

Also, I have found that the key is to embrace the changes. I have been so much happier and more content as I have stopped resisting so strongly the improvements, and started welcoming them, as I cope with the help of God, my friends here, and the letters from the loved ones back home. I encourage you all to embrace your life´s alterations as you finish out a great week! Life is good! Don´t ever forget that.

Much Affection,
Elder Ericksen

District E

Missionary ready
Light skinned haircut face for Kanoa

Missing the Gym

Mega Desk.  Be careful Elder

Flooded Laundry Ooops

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Week 4 - MTC Routine

Hello Friends and Family,

Can everyone imagine a semi-nice Italian food restuarant - the kind where they bring you out a little dish of oil and vinegar before your meal? Well, have any of you ever wondered what would happen if someone were to pour that little plate of bread garnish into a glass and drink it in order to preserve their manhood and pride? Keep reading to find out...

Today, what I really wanted to do this week for my letter home, is to zoom in a little more into the life of a missionary at the CCM. Our days here are full, from 6:30AM to 10:30PM, every hour with something to do in our preparation for the field.

In the mornings, we arise early and get ready for the day (Brushing teeth, showers, classic missionary-white-shirts). After that we head off to breakfast. The food is pretty good for breakfast, and recognizable - french toast, pancakes, eggs, Mexican food items with lots of potatoes. Sometimes they serve up dishes that definitely aren´t meant for breakfast (enchiladas, rolled tacos, deli sandwiches) but no one ever complains about that. After breakfast we head off to our first block of classes. We study Spanish, the Bible and Book of Mormon, and we do lots of practicing teaching. We work from 8-1230.

After that is lunch. We are all usually pretty hungry at this time of day and it is a place of many jokes and fun memories. Almuerzo is the time when Elder Palmer decided he was going to follow through with the dare to drink the oil and balsamic, that poor fellow. He lost a game of "would you rather" and immediately sighed as he consigned to his fate. Right when he slammed the glass of substance he retched hard three times and grabbed for a pile of napkins, breathing into them trying to hold it down. After the first 10 seconds of nausea, he just stared down at the tray in front of him for a good 90 seconds  making a face as if his soul had left his body and was slowly reentering his being. We are all happy he is still with us.

After lunch we migrate back to the class for the same block of classes, except with a different teacher and subjects. Another funny moment happened this week when we were practicing some Spanish skills through an activity of teaching one another a lesson about Joseph Smith and his life. We do this often, and have many aliases for our various role playing. In this particular lesson, Elder Palmer decided that his alias for the investigator of the church he was playing, was going to be Joseph Smith himself. I am sure you all can image how quickly things frustrated and then unwound as Elder Christensen tried to teach a lesson about Joseph Smith to... Joseph Smith. Oh man we have way too much fun here.

After this is dinner, which is always great. There has never been a time where I have showed up to the comedor and not found something that I enjoy eating. Tamales, tacos, rice, beans, chicken of various kinds, the best watermelon ever, its all delicious.

When dinner is over we either have more Spanish classes or some kind of uplifting devotional. The devotionals are always great and on Sundays they even show us some church movies! Its always exactly what I need after a long day of learning. This past Thursday we were favored with a fun presentation for the Mexican Independence day. They brought in some dancers of many varieties and had a live band! After we got to watch some fire works from our dorms.

All in all life is pretty good here at the CCM. Each day gets shorter and I am beginning to get so excited for Ecuador. I hope all is well back in the states and you all have a lovely rest of your weeks.

Elder Ericksen

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Week 3 - Always Try Your Best

Hello friends and family,

I am happy to be emailing you all from half way through week 4 of 104 total in my two year mission! This past week was a really great week with lots of triumphs. There is so much to talk about however I think I would like to spend the meat of this letter home on a slightly humorous story.

 Okay, imagine this... A group of 60-70 missionaries reporting to "service hour" in the middle of the day with no real idea of we´ll be doing for the next hour other than the fact that it will involve serving someone or something. We all arrived happily to the location outside the MTC tienda  where we expected to find the person in charge, with more information about where to go or what to do to move along the chores of the MTC.  When we arrived, we walked up on a small-framed, smiling Mexican fellow who was on a 6-speed bicycle in a working uniform with a clipboard in hand. 

All of a sudden, to everyone´s surprise, he blurted out some rapid spanish, turned the bike around and booked it off through the campus. All of the American elders (about 20% of the group of workers) rightfully confused, looked around at each other and then decided that we had no other choice but to race after the unpredictable bike man. After a good 5 minutes of some hard chasing, we arrived at our intended location - the MTC water tower - that was surrounded with a plethora of empty water jugs. We confused Americans got a good 3 minute split time on all of the native, spanish speaking missionaries, so when we arrived out of breath, the man motioned us over off to the side. 

At first we all thought that he was just separating us into spanish-speaking and non-spanish-speaking missionaries for ease of giving instruction. But then, once everyone had gathered, very similarly to the last time he spoke, he yelped out some more slurred EspaƱol and again we all looked around in confusion.

It wasn't until the one native companionship in our section turned around and exclaimed, " We´re done! He said we´re done!!" that we really realized what had happened. Apparently, the unknown hermano told us that who ever got to the service activity first, would be let go, off the hook! All of us white kids faced each other for the third time of the day, except for this occasion it wasn't driven by confusion, it was to cheer in pure excitement! We soon realized soon after shouting out that it was not a very good idea to make our inner joy known, considering we were surrounded by all the kids who would still have to do the chores and fill up water jugs for the next hour. 

Extremely cheesy moral of the story: Always try your best, and always give your all to anything you are engaged in, even when you don't understand the process or the final outcome of a work. This is just one story of many that have taught me this on my mission, and I am so incredibly blessed to have learned this so early on in my time out here. I urge you all to do your best in all your endeavours, because I have learned that a certain peace of mind, a self-respect, and a self-confidence comes when we sincerely give all to our efforts. I have been able to apply this to my spanish classes, my teaching instruction, and even in all my relationships here. Things are good in the CCM and I hope that you all have a lovely week. 

I would also like to extend a sincere gratitude to everyone who has written me and sent me prayers throughout my days here.

Until next week, 

Elder Ericksen
 The bus ride

 Tag picture
Treat bag

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Week 2 - The Water Incident

September 7, 2016

I am just sitting down at the computer after a very full day of travelling to the temple! The Mexico City temple was a really special experience that brought me much joy and peace. 

Im realizing that in life, many things are all about perspective - frames of mind in which we perceive the world around us. One great blessing of my mission is that I am constantly getting opportunities to reevaluate my perspective about my life and about the events taking place around me. In our comfort zones as humans, we tend to stay in pretty steady frames of mind and perspectives. However, being a missionary, being far away from home, learning a new language, and constantly being persuaded to the edge of critical thinking and comfort, gives me a million different opportunities of refreshment... every day, every hour, even every minute! This has been a huge blessing and I can feel myself growing as a person and stretching in my personality. I am realizing more and more that all I have to do is figure out a way to sift through all these different lenses of my world and just pick out the ones that are beneficial to me. 

 Some things that I have learned the positive perspective of at the CCM. 1. Elder Baumgarter drinking 4 full liters of orange juice and then washing it down with another full liter of water! We all thought he was going to explode, but he didnt! And when he pulled out of the sugar coma in a few hours he shot us all a smile and promised to do it again. 2. Waking up to broken pipes and no water coming into our dorm. This has happened 3 times since I have been here and the perspective it has taught me very fast is that it is a real reason of excitement and joy when warm water comes out of my shower head when I want it to. 3. Learning a new language. Sure it can be difficult when someone asks me a complex question in Spanish. However, it is a true blessing when I can communicate the simple and necessary things to the Spanish speakers around me. 4. When the Mexican people shoot off fireworks all day and all night long. This has been a real treat for me because it has gotten me really excited for the Mexican Independence day that is coming in a week or so! It also has led me to really appreciate when I sleep all the way through the night, and that is happening more and more. 5. Spending some time in the enfermedad with my companion. The perspective this has taught me is that I am very thankful that I take care of my feet and dont have massive, ripped-open, 3 inch tall blisters in my soles like he does. It also is a good reminder that the missionaries get good medical care in the CCM and we all are blessed for that.

In all seriousness, this week has been one of triumph. Everyday I get a little better in teaching. Everyday I get a little better of a handle on the pesky emotions that can be a tad solemn at random times. Everyday I grow a little closer to the guys in my district as we laugh, smile, and succeed together. And everyday I get a little more excited for Ecuador, where Ill be departing for in 3 short weeks! 

I miss all of you lots and I have been so incredibly thankful for the messages I have received through the emails and letters. Please everyone have an amazing rest of the week and remember to be thankful for the many things we tend to take for granted in our day to days.

Much affection, 
Elder Ericksen