Today has been such a good day! I accidentally slept in til 6.45, we went to breakfast, did all our laundry, then at 9:15 we went to the tennis and basketball courts and played games with our district until lunch basically. I don´t really have a logical flow of ideas here, so I´m just going to start writing.
One thing I left out of last weeks email was that I have been sick (what else is new, right?). One of the hermanas en mi casa was getting over a cold, so I figured I caught it from her. So I had a bit of a nasty cold, which was then mixed with minimal sleep. Thursday was miserable. I wanted to stay in class though because I didn´t want to fall behind, and we had an appointment with a new fake investigator, Iván. Iván, by the way, is my favorite person ever, but more on him later. During our appointment with Iván, I could barely think or hear and I couldn´t stop coughing. It just wasn´t great and Hermana Fox basically had to teach most of the lesson. So afterwards I asked if anyone had consecrated oil and if anyone would be willing to give me a blessing. All the elderes were so willing and excited to do so. Everyone studied how to give a blessing in the missionary handbook, and I´m sure it was the first time for a lot of them. So I received a blessing, and all of the elderes in my distrito, plus one that was transferred out of my district the first week,participated, so there were nine elderes in all. I had such a feeling of peace, because I had been so worried that I would be sick forever and never get better unless I took a day off and slept it off. I really didn´t want to do that, so many hermanas and elders have had to stay in bed all day. During the blessing, a district across the hall started singing "Señor, Te Necesito" which sounds about a million times more beautiful in Spanish. It was just a really sweet experience to receive that blessing and to know that the priesthood of God is on the earth today, and is held by teenage boys who are willing and worthy to exercise it in my behalf.
I woke up the next day and while I was still sick, it felt like the final few days of a cold, whereas usually I am in a cloud and completely worthless for a week or more. I didn´t have a voice for about 2.5 days, but that didn´t stop me from participating in all my classes and on three disastrous occasions, I attempted singing. My teachers were so sweet though! Hermana Martinez has been teaching less and less, and more and more often Hermano Sanchez is taking over. Hermano Sanchez is about 21, and then there´s Hermano Rangel. Everyday, first in the morning by Hermano Sanchez then after dinner with Hermano Rangel, they ask me how I feel, if I need medicine, if there´s anything they can do, etc. Hermano Sanchez also teaches primarily in español, and has only been teaching about a month. He´s so nice and he´s so grateful when we help him learn a little bit more English. Iván, our investigator, is also our teacher at night, Hermano Rangel, and I have never seen someone smile so much or express love so much. As an investigator, he gives great responses to our questions and he helps us when we struggle with conjugations or pronunciations of words, which is so much better than just hearing "no entiendo" all the time. As a teacher, he is always making us laugh, and he teaches us a ton though his lessons but also through him just being who he is. In the mornings with Hermano Sanchez we work primarily on language and then just a little teaching, and with Hermano Rangel it´s mostly teaching with a little language (still, always in Spanish though). Hermano Rangel is always smiling and when we leave the classroom at 9:30, Hermano Rangel says "Smile at eberyhuan. You shood smile at eberyhuan because you have the Gowspel! Buenas noches, I love you all!" He tells us periodically during his lessons that the loves us as well. I have never met nicer people than my teachers here.
Lately I´ve been getting frustrated because I haven´t been able to say when I want in Spanish, and when I´m frustrated I usually end up with a really red face and I look like I´m about to burst into tears. Whenever this happens (which has been more often than I would like), Hermano Sanchez comes over and talks to me in his broken English and tells me that he believes in me, and that even with my pathetic Spanish, I can teach with the Spirit. Usually the encouragement he gives makes me actually cry juuuust a teensy bit too, but I really love learning and teaching. I don´t know why I let myself get so frustrated, because my Spanish is probably better than most the people in my class, but I guess I´m just not used to doing something that I´m not naturally good at. I can, however, read and understand Spanish pretty well. I can ready Predicad Mi Evangelio and know 99% of the words and I only have to look something up every couple paragraphs. Hermano Sanchez & Hermano Rangel have both heard me translate out loud and have told me that I can translate spanish very well, I just can´t figure out how to say what I want back. But it will come, and I am working on not getting so frustrated.
We have another fake investigator, Mia. Mia is Hermana Martinez. We have only met with her once, and it was difficult, because Mia doesn´t believe that God loves her because of a really sad backstory (it´s worth noting that all of our fake investigators take on the characters of people close to them, usually investigators they taught on their missions or possibly their own pre-conversion selves). When we first met with "Mia," and she was explaining how she felt about God and churches, Hermana Martinez/Mia cried telling her feelings, so of course I cried too (I´ve been doing that a lot lately....). We don´t teach her again until tomorrow, but I´m still trying to figure out exactly how you teach someone like that.
Sundays are always great. They are the longest days ever, but they are so full of good things. Hermana Pratt is doing a two-week lecture on faith for Relief Society, and I just love having her as a teacher. She is amazing. We watched a devotional that Elder Scott gave at the Provo MTC, and then at night we always watch a church video. This week we watched the story of the Tanner dude with the bad leg who was healed and then gave all that money to the church and ahhh I love that story, and then we watched the old "To This End Was I Born" video. We also have branch meetings, sacrament meeting, study times, and class with the CCM Presidency. Presidente Pratt taught about the priesthood and of course I loved it, especially because of my recent priesthood experience. I am really enjoying all of my time in the CCM, and I´m kind of sad that I´m already halfway done!
Oh yeah! Yesterday, Hermano Sanchez and Hermana Martinez made us teach with one of the latino districts. Walking up to them was so intimidating, because most of them knew barely any English, and we hardly know Spanish, but they were so sweet. For some reason, there were like four people watching me and Hermana Fox when all of the other groups had maybe one person watching them, but whenever we would struggle with a word or say something that made no sense, everyone would smile encouragingly at us. It was so intimidating, but they were all so sweet.
My camera has randomly stopped working. It says lens error every time I turn it on, so I only have one picture to send today. It has no reason to be trippin either, I have treated that camera like a human baby. Hopefully it will snap out of it because I have a million pictures I want to take!
So, one of the weirdest things about Mexico City is that it will be a beautiful warm day, then you read a page of your book and you look out the window and it´s dark and it is dumping buckets of rain. Me and Hermana Fox got caught in one such torrential downpour yesterday. We had gym time, then we go straight to our weekly service project (this week and last week we´ve just been washing the rags used to clean the windows in the comedor), but on the way home it started raining the harder than I´ve ever seen it rain before (however, the record was broken later on that night when things got really crazy...). I don´t know if you can see how wet we are in the picture, but we were running home in the rain and still got ridiculously soaked. I wish I could go outside and play in it! The roadways turn into rivers and we hermanas just take off our shoes because the water comes up to our ankles, even on parts of the sidewalks. The grounds of the CCM are really uneven because the ground sinks so much every year and there are lots of earthquakes, so there are huge puddles in the middle of walkways where the ground has sunk in. It´s also weird that even when it hasn´t rained all day, the ground is still just thick, saturated mud. I love it here though, and I love the random rain. I have learned to bring my umbrella everywhere, even if I don´t see a single cloud in the sky, because that is usually when it´s going to come down the hardest. Last night it hailed for a couple seconds and even with my umbrella, my skirt became soaked through and my shoes are still wet, even though I was carrying them in my hands. Every night and early in the morning, we also hear cannons. At least they sound like cannons, we don´t really know what they are or where they come from, but they are loud! Mexico City is so loud! We still hear fireworks occasionally at night too.
Last night, at the beginning of Tuesday Devotional (we watched a DVD of a devotional Elder Bednar gave at the Provo MTC), President Pratt announced the songs and oraciónes etc. and then said "After devotional I need to see Hermana Natalie Rust in my office." Everyone in my district just turned and looked at me and I had no idea what it was about. My first thought was that I had accidently broken some rule, but then when Elder Hendricks said it was probably bad news, my immediate thought was that Grandpa Skousen died. When I met with President Pratt, he welcomed me into his office, had me sit down, and then told me what you had emailed to him. I told him that I had a feeling before I left that he was going to die while I was on my mission, so I had made sure to tell him that I loved him and to talk to him a bit. I was having a decent cry, and he told me to stay in his office as long as I wanted and to let him know if I needed anything, but I told him that staying there wouldn´t do me or anyone else any good, and that I would cry tonight but that I will be just fine, and that my district was having a meeting so I needed to go. He told me I was strong, and that he knew I wouldn´t let this slow me down. There´s no way I would let it either, because there´s no reason. I know where Grandpa is, and what he´s doing and that he´s with Brett, and I know everyone at home will be just fine. I did write some things in my journal, and it´s probably the same things that everyone else has said.
One of my favorite things about Grandpa is simply how he says hello and goodbye. He always greets me with a "Well hello princess!" or "How are you doing, angel?" and there´s usually a "You just get prettier everyday" thrown in there. After I got my mission call, princess and angel were replaced with "Natalie" or "Hermana" or my personal favorite, "Querida." He always made me feel special, and he always let me know how much he loved me. He´s so full of love, and I love that he always made sure his family knew he loved them, the temple, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You know that those are the things most important to him, and I want to make sure that everyone always knows that family, the temple, and the Gospel are important to me.
Another thing I thought of was 2 Nefi 32.3. "Ángeles hablan por el poder del Espiritu Santo" y ahora tengo un ángel que habla español. I know that Grandpa will be helping me, and I have already felt his love. I know that he is so happy with where I am, in a country he loves, learning to speak the language he loves, so I can teach others the gospel that he loves. Don´t you think that Grandpa probably had a huge welcoming party of people just waiting to thank him for all the ordinances he did in the temple? And I love to think about his and Uncle Brett´s reunion. El Plan de Salvación is real, it is God´s plan for us, and Grandpa is just continuing the work on the other side. I can´t wait to give him a big hug later and have him call me Princess or Querida and tell me that I´ve gotten even prettier.
Make sure Grandma knows I love her, tell everyone when you see them on Saturday that I love them too.