Hola familia y amigos!
I am happily settled into Mexico! I barely had any time to say goodbye at the airport (I nearly lost it in the security line after saying goodbye to Dad), and then it was straight on through security and on to Texas. When I arrived in Dallas, my plan was to sit in the aiport pitifully by myself and mope, but a mob of other missionaries met up in the same gate as me and there wasn't even time to be sad. I met three sisters going to the same mission as me! Hermana Howell, Rogers, and Hawkins (Hawkins is my companion for the MTC). The flight from Dallas to Mexico went well--I had a window seat (my favorito) and it was fun to see the perfect geographically mapped out squares and circles of fields in America turn into haphazard boundary lines and chaos. The MTC, or CCM, as it is called here, is right in the middle of the craziness. There are so many buildings they look like they're just stacked one on top of the other. As soon as we arrived at the airport in Mexico City, we passed through customs and I followed five other sisters straight out of airport security....without picking up our bags first.... I don't know how we didn't think to grab them, but we didn't, and we no longer had our customs papers to get back through. So we back-tracked, and somehow I ended up being the orator who attempted to explain to the workers why we all needed to go back through the gates. So, as it was a sufficiently embarrassing situation, I told airport security, "Lo siento, necesitamos nuestra equipaje--lo siento. Estoy muy embarassada." Which, I thought meant, "So sorry, we all need our luggage. I'm sorry, I'm so embarrassed," but which actually translates to, "So sorry, we all need our luggage. I'm sorry, I'm very pregnant." That raised some eyebrows. After a few minutes of brief confusion, and realizing what I had said, we were able to pass through and get our luggage. And for the record, no, I'm not pregnant.
I've said a lot of interesting things since being here. Such as: "No puedo voy afuera ahora porque no tengo brazos" (I cannot go outside right now because I do not have arms); I got soap in my eyes and declared loudly, "Hay sopa en mis ojos!! Hay SOPA EN MIS OJOS!" (There is soup in my eyes! THERE IS SOUP IN MY EYES!), and I prayed that Hermana Hawkins and I would be "grande missionarias," which I intended to mean grand, but which translated to very large; and while attempting to ask my Spanish roommate how her dinner went, I asked her "Como le gusta su dinero?" (How do you like your money?). She answered in tens and twenties, haha. I'm sure this is just the beginning of what promises to be a very entertaining 18 months.
I love it here. When we were driving through the city, I honestly couldn't imagine where the CCM would be; there is no free room anywhere. Driving in Mexico is a near death experience. There are four lanes of cars driving, and no drawn lines. So, we saw a bus with people hanging out of the doors, sandwiched between two vintage VW Beetles, and then random motorcyclists darting in and out of traffic. From what I can tell, there are no rules. Just..fend for yourself and honk if you feel like you're in danger of dying, which is all of the time. When we pulled up to the CCM, it looked like a prison. It's completely gated in by security and surrounded by barbed wire, but once inside, it's like its own litte world--an oasis in the chaos. There are giant palm trees lining the walkway to the main building, and the apartments, or "casas," where we live are arranged by color in rainbow order. It's much larger than Provo, and the backdrop of the City is incredible. You almost forget where you are until you look up, and there's a giant hill with a white "B" as a backdrop and hundreds of colorful builldings stacked one on top of the other. At night time, there are so many houses in close proximity the lights look like stars. It truly is beautiful here, in a crazy, nonconventional sort of way. Also, I expected it to be hot and kind of miserable, but it's not. It rains every day around 5:00, and it feels like a brisk autumn. I won't be getting a tan here, but hey, I'm grateful for the cool weather. Nicaragua is going to kill me.
The food here is....interesante. I ate cow tongue. I didn't realize it was cow tongue until after I ate it. I guess it should have tipped me off that the entire pile of meat they were putting on our plates was strangely elongated and thin (my particular piece of meat looked like Argentina)...but, I had no idea, and I ate all of it. Honestly, I kind of liked it. I don't mind the food much, normally, but occasionally we'll get something that I have never seen before, and I promised myself I would try everything. For the record, guava is disgusting. And it is truly unfortunate having a companion around all of the time when you have to make a mad dash to the bathroom.
We got to go to the temple today!! It was absolutely gorgeous, and surprisingly large (much larger than the one in St. Louis). I have only been through once, so, going through for the second time in Spanish was a tad overwhelming, but I did it. I think we'll get to go an additional two times while we're here. It took an hour to drive there, despite the close proximity to the CCM, just because of the catacomb-like nature of the streets. I couldn't take my eyes off of the bus window, despite the fact that we had woken up at 5 am to leave and we're exhausted pretty much all of the time. I love all of the street vendors here; we saw a guy painted silver doing card tricks, one blowing fire and juggling, and the cutest little Mexican old ladies selling gum and dulces (sweets). The MTC president here, President Pratt, says driving through Mexico is one of his favorite things, but it'll definitely get your adrenaline pumping. I'd like to come back someday and just walk through the streets sometimes.
I like my district, a bunch of crazy 18 year old boys and 4 other girls. It's pretty neat to see the progress we're making. We all arrived in Mexico speaking barely any spanish, and now we have taught all of the lessons from Preach My Gospel, committed an "investigator" to baptism, and learned how to bare our testimonies and pray. There was some initial awkwardness between the Elders and the Sisters, just figuring out what was normal and okay, but now we're all comfortable and we're kind of like a big, disfunctional family. We have fun, but we work hard. 14 hours a day of non-stop praying, studying, and teaching. They told me I would be tired, but I didn't realize just how intense it was going to be. I'm so happy to be here, though. I miss everyone, of course, but I have had so many spiritual confirmations this last week that this is exactly where I'm supposed to be that it is honestly strange to think I ever considered not going. I'm Hermana Behan! How crazy is that?
I had a bit of a panic attack earlier this week. We all had to meet with our Branch President to assess our Spanish skills and get to know him better, and after our meeting, he told me my Spanish was so great (it really isn't), that he would like me to consider going to Nicaragua three weeks early. ???!!!! I will concede that I have the accent down, but my Spanish skills are impossibly behind! I had to fret about it all week while he talked to the MTC President, but, thank goodness, there would be too many complications with paperwork, and so I am staying here. He seemed disappointed that I couldn't leave earlier, but I'm grateful for the time here. We're learning the language, to be sure, but I feel that I am spiritually growing leaps and bounds too. It's a transformative process, and I want to change. I'll be darned if I don't come back a much better version of the Cara you knew before. My companion in and did just receive our first calling, however, as the "Sister Training Leaders" (yeah I know, it sounds made up) of our zone. We're essentially the female version of district leaders. I have no idea what that entails as of yet, but I'm excited to find out!
I love everyone, and I love it here. I can feel the effects of your prayers and am so grateful for them. There are morning when my alarm goes off and I seriously wonder how I'll make it through the day, but every day has been great. Yes, my Spanish roommate laughs at almost everything I say (when it isn't intended to be funny), but I'm optimistic that I'll get it eventually.
Te amo mucho!! There is no way to receive packages here, but apparently mail takes only a few weeks. I'll try to write if I can--there seriously isn't time to do anything.
<3 Hermana Behan