Actually, it is not for 1000 days. It is just that 3 years times 365 days plus June 27 through June 30, 2008 equals 1098 days, and that is way too cumbersome to convert into a blog headline. Futhermore, our release date will not be determined until May or June of 2011. Therefore, 1000 Days sounded just about right, more or less. Having noted all that, we are humbled and thrilled (Pres. Uchtdorf would refer to the feeling as "joyfully overwhelmed") about having this marvelous opportunity to serve in La Mision Mexico Veracruz.

Con amor,
Pdte. y Hna. Pete and JoElla Hansen

Sunday, January 2, 2011

We were very grateful to receive this group of visa-waiters on Sept 13, and they were happy to get to Veracruz. The missionaries are Elders Malieatulua, Clutter, Hall, Nelson, Tataipu, Porter, Bell, Havili, Ricks, Ray, Lyons, and Gunther. They came two days before the celebration of Mexican Independance Day.

Mexican housing development billboards are much more interesting that those in the USA. This one is posted above an orange "Construction in Progress" sign and reads, "The Second Best Place to Live."

The mission continues to progress. Two new branches of the Church were formally organized on Sept 12, 2010 by the Veracruz Mocambo Stake. They are both about 15 minutes away from the Verzcruz Temple, but are different directions at a "Y" in the road. If you want to go to church in a building which is not a chapel, Yogi Berra's axiom would work perfectly here, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." The first missionaries to officially serve in the Anton Lizardo Branch are Elders Ramos, Lozano, and Salas.

The first missionaries to serve in the Paso del Toro Branch are Elders De Jesus and Dominguez.

The office elders were given BYU football t-shirts, edition 2010, and gave us their Heisman pose-- Elders Castillo, Holman, Campos, Canseco, and Redfern. The Americans seem to understand the pose a little better than the Mexicans.

Elder Bullock and Elder Heinhold work together in Xalapa. They are both missionaries with a "can do" attitude. Elder Bullock went into the area on a regular Tuesday transfer day. That Saturday they baptized this family of four who did not have baptismal dates. He got to the area and sat down with Elder Heinhold. They reviewed the area book. He saw this family had been to church for four straight weeks. He asked his companion why they hadn't been baptized. He said that the previous senior companion said that they lived too far away (35 minutes) and that the man was a taxi driver and was hard to get ahold of. They decided to go see them that very afternoon. They did that and asked the mom if she wanted to be baptized. She said she did. They asked if her husband also wanted baptism. She said that he did and that they really wanted to get married in the temple. He was out driving his taxi, but they asked her to call him. He was home in five minutes. They accepted the date, drove his taxi to the baptism four days later, and are going in his taxi to church every week.

After our last dinner at Mérida, someone decided that we needed to take this picture. These seven couples all met together for a different last dinner in Provo on June 25, 2008. The next day we all flew to Mexico to begin our missions. They are great friends. From left to right they are the Clark's (Torreón), De La Cruz (Oaxaca), Velasco's (Tuxtla-Gutierrez), Heyn's (Tijuana), Hansen's (Veracruz), Rex (Puebla), Nancollas (Mexico City North). No, we are not trunky. We are ticked that they will not let us stay longer.

Mom's nephew, Talmage Haines, was called to serve his mission in Monterrey East. His mission president is Alan Walker, the fellow on the left. He is a native Argentine who served his mission in Tennessee Knoxville Spanish. Then, he graduated from BYU, got married somewhere in there, and worked as the controller for the Mexico Area Office. Now, he has been in Monterrey since July 1. In 2 1/2 years he will look like the fellow on the right.

Check this out. A D.A.R.E. officer in Mérida! This is what I call a role model.

The Mérida Museum was very interesting. We won't bore you with lots of pictures of museum pieces which we found but this is really amazing. We have seen this in some later Olmec generations, but it is also in the Mayans who were prevalent in the Mérida Region which is in the Yucatan Peninsula. Apparently, the Maya lashed babies' heads between planks made of twigs with the intent of re-shaping the skulls. These are real live, well, not so live but real, skulls.

The Mexico Area Presidency gifted us all with a wooden, hand-carved Olmec head. We love the Olmecs and their history. This is Elder Octaviano Tenorio, counselor to the area president and member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He is orginally from Los Tuxtlas, one of the lands of the Olmec.

Mom made friends with a lady who was selling blouses and shirts and other stuff. They are so inexpensive outside the cities!

We liked the Uxmal-ian iguanas, and they liked Pres. Romney of the Monterrey West Mission. He got down on their level and fed them bites of apple. Only one of them bit his finger. How many iguanas can you count?

As you can see, it is a very interesting and beautiful place.

While at the Mission Presidents Seminar they took us to a ruin site about an hourout of Mérida called Uxmal. The first photo is of a man climbing the main pyramid at the entrance to the park. His behavior is quite illegal but he didn't seem to mind.

Neither did this cool iguana.

So Mom tried to catch one for dinner.

Here are Three Amigos. The other two are Pres. Heyn and Pres. Call who preside over the Tijuana and Tampico Missions. They are fans and graduates of the true blue.

This picture was not taken in our mission, but we love it, so you get to love it, too. Our nephew, Elder Hamilton Mendenhall, is serving in Chile Santiago and is "flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon." Even Mr. Ed needs the Book of Mormon!

Elders Roberts and Hernandez Martinez are in a little and very remote jungly pueblo called Cazones. They have worked so hard and finally found a man who sincerely wanted to receive baptism. His wife was already a member. First, they had to get them married. Is the groom looking a little grouchy about this marrige thing? Second, Elder Roberts needed to scrub the baptismal font. Then, they got to take a family photo before the baptismal service. Now, they are smiling!

Mexico--the land of firsts. Today we had another first. Mom gave me a shot! It is a story, as you might well imagine.

I have these knees. Well, they are actually hinges between my femur and tibia-fibula apparatus. They are not rusty. Rust doesn't happen there. They are corroded. Once upon a time I had cartilage in those hinges. Now, the right knee is bone-to-bone,and the left is almost that way. Osteoarthritis does that. I have been this way for 10 years or so, that I know of. Obviously, the cartilage-eating arthritis has been part of me for a long time. My joints have been corroded away. I guess that means they have rusted away. They hurt. So, it was time to bite the tortilla and find a local doc.

In Mexico they call the specialty traumatologogía. Traumatology. The doctor is call a traumatólogo, a traumatolgist. That is fine with me. That is how my knees felt--traumatized. The mission secretary found one, Dr. Huidobro Rojas Octavio. His name did not comfort me. But, I was motivated. I need to walk.

So, on a Saturday morning I went all by myself, in the rain, to see Trauma Man. (Mom was preparing a large meal, meaning dozens of homemade rolls, for the office elders.) I found his office with no problem , which was the first miracle. I walked in and the waiting room was very dark, very uninviting, and very full of local people none of whom smiled. I think they all had sore leg hinges. The place smelled like the bottom of an old and dirty ash tray.

The receptionist looked up from her ancient and very heavy wooden desk; she was reading the Mexican version of People magazine. I'll bet the drawers on the desk squeaked like my knees. I identified myself and she pointed to Door One of three. I had an appointment. Advantage. I walked in, all by myself. This was all a little traumatic.

Dr. "Trauma Man" Rojas was playing on his computer. This was his actual office. He invited me to sit down, which I did. I handed him my X-rays and he looked at them. He asked if the right hurts worse than the left. I said they were the same. He asked me that three times. I think he was testing my Spanish. He asked if I had been offered prosthetic surgery, meaning knee replacement surgery. I have been offered, have procrastinated, and told him I would do that another day in the US of A. He said that would be good. He asked what I would like of him. I told him cortisone in both knees. He seemed happy to do that.

The exam room is through his tiny office in the next cement cubicle. The whole setup was kinda weird, which was not helping my mental trauma. The paint was stained and peeling. They had cut a hole in the cement wall and installed a small air conditioner and crammed paper towels around the edges to keep the rain, draft, and cockroaches on the other side of the wall. The lighting is not light. Most places here use those low wattage fluorescent bulbs in their fixtures, and the lighting is very undercharged and weak.

He sat me on the exam table. It creaked. That is partially my fault. Hand-made tortillas will do that to you. But, the table is the same one he started with 20 years ago, I am sure, when he got out of traumatology school. It has supported many a tortilla in its lifetime. He laid me down and did a sort of examination. He bent each knee. Good enough. Let's shoot them. It was good enough. I knew what I needed and although I can buy cortisone here without a prescription, I cannot inject my own knees; neither am I interested in doing that.

But, then the magic happened. He told me that he is from Lerdo de Tejada. He is from our beloved Los Tuxtlas! Now, I liked him. Now, we were friends. I would have him do open heart surgery on me! But, today, knees only. The shots hurt like heck but they might help. He prescribed me some pills and told me Costco was the cheapest place to buy them and we said that we would do this again in a couple of months. I have found my Mexican drug source.

This is the clincher. His fee: 1,000 pesos. That is about $75, medicine and syringe included. (I wonder if he changed the needle when he went from my left knee to the right . . . gotta cut costs, you know. Oh well . . . No fever yet.)

Here is the other clincher. One of the meds he prescribed is called betametasone. It is an injectible steroid (cortisone is a steriod) and I was to receive it the next day. It goes in muscle tissue, arm works if one still has muscle there. I asked if I was going come back to his office for that. "Oh no," he said. "Just buy it at Costco and have someone do it for you." That someone was Mom. See the photo.

She did really well. I only felt it when she hit the bone with the needle. JUST KIDDING! It was all good and we are still happily married.

Elders Andersen and Checketts think it is still raining in Loma Bonita. Looks to me like it has almost stopped. But, as you can see, water runs downhill . . . every time.

While we waited for Elder Salas, we were entertained by this sign. This man was picking up a worm scientist to take him to a convention in Xalapa. The scientist looked kinda like what you are imagining. Worm Convention in Mexico. We had not heard of that before. They have kept that information underground.

Finally, Elder Salas came in. He is the cutest little guy! He is much happier than the pictures show and just loves being a missionary.

Here he is with his trainers, Elders Lozano and Ramos. They both speak really good Spanish and will be able to help him translate from Peruvian. Okay, okay. Peruvians already speak Spanish.

We got a surprise email, not phone call, from Perú. It said that an Elder Salas was coming in on Saturday night, September 4th. Elder Salas was a visa-waiter. He was scheduled to come in at 6 p.m. I had another important event scheduled at that exact time--the kickoff of the BYU football season which I intended to catch on KSL Radio via the internet. Plans ruined, but the game wasn't. We beat Washington.

In the photo, Elder Holman sits by me while I try to find the score and updates on the Blackberry.

The plane was delayed--good grief--until I-don't-remember-when o'clock. Elders Amador, Canseco, Holman, Redfern, and De Jesus passed out. Just kidding! They posed for the shot, but everyone got drowsy and mosquito-bitten.

These are the office elders on the day before assistant to the president Elder Amador "went out." We are now sending the assistants out to the field and putting them into positions as trainers or other leaders. The missionaries are, starting from the bottom, Elders Holman, Campos, Castillo, Amador, De Jesus, Redfern, and Canseco.

Comes now the rainy season. You will notice that none of the missionaries are wearing raincoats or rainboots. Two reasons: 1) the rain comes down at 80 degrees plus (27 C o más) and 2) what good would they do? If you look closely you can see the current in the water.

Elders Chandler, Gardner, Linares, and Alvarez were in Carlos A. Carrillo this day, got soaked, and decided to enjoy it. You understand, don't you? Swimming is against mission rules

The flooding really does get this deep all over the mission, even in the chapel parking lot where Elders Gardner and Chandler stand.

Many hours and kilometers away in Xalapa, and three days difference in time, Elder Heinhold walked to an appointment with an umbrella. I guess he was trying to keep his powder dry.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

These two missionaries speak the long and short of our American missionaries, Elder Anderson and Elder Parker. Elder Anderson is smiling because he just arrived. Elder Parker is smiling because he is just leaving. Tall and short, long-timers and short-timers.