Somebody in a FB group was asking for missionaries playing music photos for a website that they're building. I was blessed to be able to have a guitar on my mission in Spain, and I went through all my photos of where I was playing guitar, and here's a compilation. It's fun to go back look through these!
One of the less active members was paralyzed on the right side of his body, so I helped him strum some chords while he moved his left hand into the shape of chords.
We had a triple baptism this day, and we played some special arrangements of our favorite hymns.
In Spanish music, they use a lot of "las palmas", which is a percussive clapping technique. Here I'm playing guitar while a ward member, Bruno, is demonstrating "las palmas".
Here's me sporting my Barca tie at one of the most famous Spanish landmarks; Plaza de Espana.
Plaza de Espana.
My companion was awesome for putting up with the photo shoot.
Another angle of Plaza de Espana.
Sister missionaries playing guitar right at the train station, waiting for transfers.
John Lennon composed Strawberry Fields Forever in this city of Almeria.
This past Saturday, I decided to go to the #MarchForLife event at the Utah State Capitol. What I really liked about the event, is that they were collecting donations of wipes and diapers to mothers in need. Summer couldn't go, because she was teaching some skin care classes for Mary Kay. I called up Tyler, my childhood friend and we went. We even ate at Kneaders before, it was fun. I had a few people heckle me on the way up there, because I took public transportation. At the end of the march, there was a rally inside the capitol with motivational speakers. Instead of marching right in, Tyler and I lingered outside, and mingled with some of the other marchers. We saw our high school friend Sam show up.
Lots of older people were ecstatic that 20 something year old men were at the rally, and wanted to take pictures with and of us. I got a lot of compliments on the sign I spent 2 hours creating. I wish I was that witty to create this, but I just copied an image that I saw on Google. People were really awesome, uplifting, friendly, and the whole event was family friendly. The highlight is when Tyler and I met a guy that complimented my sign. He had a Rush 40th anniversary tour t-shirt on. Naturally, I'm a huge fan rush, and I went to that concert. We instantly hit it off. The funniest thing he said was "We may not be progressive on social issues, but we're progressive where it matters, our music."
A reporter was impressed that we were just normal people having a good time, and he asked if he could take our picture. His colleague right after, asked if he could quickly interview us, and he asked why we were there. Our photo and our statements were featured in the Daily Herald in this article. Here's the featured photo and the excerpt of what we said.
Alvaro Zilleruelo, third from right, talks with Daryl Bennett, center, and Tyler Ockey, right, outside the Utah State Capitol as other anti-abortion supporters make their way inside the building during the March for Life on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 in Salt Lake City. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald
“We believe in the right of the babies to a body,” said Tyler Ockey, who marched with his friend Daryl Bennett, displaying signs encouraging adoption rather than abortion. Bennett said he understands why many associate those of the anti-abortion opinion to be more religious. But he said it’s more than a faith-based issue; it’s a human rights issue.
“I’m not quite sure why abortions are always a religious issue,” he said. “For me, it’s always been a human rights issue. I hope this will send a message that there’s a lot of us, especially us young people, that believe abortions shouldn’t be funded by taxpayer dollars.”
We also talked to a Fox 13 journalist off the record. She was interested in the general vibe of why people were there. I felt like I gave her a much more elegant and thought out response. I told her that I thought as a society, we can do more to help people to choose other alternative to abortion, such as adoption or raising the child. We can do a lot more in removing negative stigmas at those women, and let them know that we love them. We can also provide resources to show that we don't stop caring about children once they are born.
We went sledding for my birthday. We decided to not go to our local park and go down the small hill, but we went to a place called Gorgoza Park. They provided inner tubes, 7 lanes ranging in height, and a lift to the top.
It's the type of activity that would be fun for the whole family, isn't too intense, but somewhat expensive. It isn't the type of thrill that I want to go do every weekend, especially with the price. Here's my favorite pics and videos from our adventure.
Thoroughly worn out from the chaotic, long, but rewarding Chichen Itza expedition, we took the next couple of days to relax, go to the beach, swim in the pool. We bought some boogie boards to try and ride the waves in front of our hotel.
We wanted to snorkel in a body of water that had fish and was bigger than our swimming pool. Xcaret is a huge local company that has various theme parks and tour options. We were at first reluctant because of the entrance fee prices, but we decided that it would add to our overall experience. It was a very organized day. A huge bus with the company logo picked us up from our hotel at exactly 7:25, like was written on our printed out park ticket, which had to be signed in ink. We were given bracelets with our info on it, that had bar codes. We were each given a sticker depending on which park we were going, Xel-Ha in our case. We got off the bus, and there were bright colored lines (that matched the color of our stickers) on the ground that pointed which direction we needed to go to get onto another bus that would take us to our park.
We tried to get a seat in the front so that Summer wouldn't get sick. We also came prepared this time with Dramamine. We had a representative of the park explain about the various attractions in the park, how the 5 included all-day buffets worked, and even a suggested order of how to do everything in the park. The park had everything included except, for 10 special activities, which required you to purchase another ticket, and they were close to $100 each.
When we got to the park, they showed us the entrance, and how to find our way around the park. Near the entrance were the dolphins. I wasn't interested, but Summer was very interested. We initially thought that it was too expensive and the photos that they took were ridiculously expensive. (We talked about this over a year ago.) But in the moment, looking at those cute dolphins, and all the people enjoying the experience, we caved and bought a ticket for Summer. They take pretty good photos of you around the park, and I know in the past that they forbade people from bringing their own cameras, and then charging you $350+ for your photo package. But, we got the photo package for an additional $8, for unlimited photos.
Summer loved the dolphins! They did various tricks, and they got to pose with and play with the dolphins. I took a video, and took pictures from afar, because dolphin photos were extremely expensive. While my photos were surprisingly good, the park's were better, and we ended up purchasing them.
We enjoyed the breakfast buffet. We snorkeled in the main bay. Everything was provided, snorkel gear, life vests, etc... We had so much fun doing that, that we didn't realize that it was almost time for us to leave the park! So with only two hours left, we attempted to do everything else. It was a big loop. We went on some zip lines, blazed some jungle trails, saw some cenotes, swam in a narrow canyon, and swam in cave. It was a ton of fun, and we'd come again.
The whole thing was very organized, and everything was nice that it's included.
We were worn out, and used this day to rest and to get our things in order. We bought some souvenirs, and packed our stuff. Late at night, we got an email from JetBlue, informing us that our flight was canceled due to weather conditions. It took an hour on the phone to get another flight, one that would leave a lot earlier the next morning.
We took a taxi to the airport. The airport was packed, due to flight delays. It was crazy with the heavy snow storms everywhere in the US, and there was shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport. It was a long grueling day. We flew to JFK for a layover. The snow was crazy. It took two hours to get our luggage from the airplane to the belt, and we had to check in the bag again. Our flight arrived on time, but the plane left 4 hours late. We got home at 4am.
Winter is cold back home for a lot of people. The weather is great in Cancun. People have lots of vacation for the holidays from work and school. Cancun is PACKED. We had a pretty relaxed New Years Day. We went to downtown Cancun on bus, where we saw a street preacher sing songs on his guitar and get harassed by some chicos malos. We went to Wal-Mart which was pretty cool. It was similar to America, but they also had a great selection of Mexican goodies. The buses were jammed pack, and we waited until the fourth one to go back.
I was getting stressed out trying to find a way for us to get to Chichen Itza. I wanted to save money by arranging our own way there, but I found a tour for $50 a person, that included food, transportation, and entrances to all the sites, which included Chichen Itza, a Cenote, and Valloid. That was a steal! So I made the purchase, and was sketched out that there was no automated email to give me the trip details. Instead, a representative of AllInOneCancun.com came to our hotel and gave us a handwritten receipt.
We woke up early, excited for our adventure to Chichen Itza. This was was supposed to be a 7am to 7pm adventure. We were in for a full day of surprises. We went to the front of our hotel, and waited for a driver to show up at 7am sharp. There were several other groups waiting for drivers as well. As 7:15 rolled by, and other groups had their drivers pick them up, I was starting to wonder if we had fallen victim to a scam. Shortly after, a shuttle van picked us up, and we filled up the van with people from other hotels, where we met at a central location. They accepted our handwritten receipts and divided us into English and Spanish speakers and we boarded buses. The ordeal took a long time and we got a late start. Our tour guide Jose, said it was because it was the new year, and they were still disorganized. Jose entertained us during the two hour drive by talking about the Maya Calendar, culture, etc... Summer got sick and we stopped the bus so that she could throw up.
Our first stop was a buffet of "authentic Mexican food". The tour was disorganized, and we learned that the food wasn't prepared because another tour group was there, so we drove around a random Maya village trying to kill time. Jose told us that natives can't preserve their culture because they can't make a living in this modern world, so they'll join drug cartels unless we buy their marked up souvenirs. Then we drove behind the restaurant, where we met some Mayan shamans. They had us participate in an energy cleansing by standing in a circle, and they chose 4 of us to hold statues. We passed the statue to the right while the Shaman, had incense, had special water and plant leaves. He chanted things in Mayan and called the 4 people who initially held the statues. I was unfortunately chosen. He said that with the cleansing, the negative energies that stood in my way of starting a successful business would be eliminated. It was kinda spooky.
Summer did a free private spiritual cleansing, and we felt obligated to help out, so we thought we'd purchase one small thing, a massage rock. The rock was $20, and it wasn't disclosed beforehand, but the shaman "calibrated" the energy in the rock and that required a $40 "donation".
There was also a huge store, where nothing had a price, and there were 10 employees pressuring you to buy things. I was afraid to pick up anything, because an employee would walk up to you and try to sell it to you. They brought a small village child, and they told us that our purchases would fund his school, and that he was autistic and didn't learn how to speak until a year ago because of the money from purchases from tourists like us.
We finally ate the food, which was pretty good. They had some authentic food, like chicken, tacos, salsa, arroz con leche, and some non-authentic food like spaghetti, mashed potatoes, and mac & cheese. They had some dancers bust out some mad skills, but then they wanted tips. Our server made it a note that we needed to tip him. Which was fine, but it felt like the tour companies have a deal with that establishment, and that establishment was just a huge shake-down.
Almost forgot to mention that they took our picture and put it on a bottle of tequila, and boarded our bus, trying to get us to buy it.
We drove to Chichen Itza. The line was yuuge. Last year, they said that there were 20,000 visitors in December. This year, they're averaging 20,000 visitors a day. There were way too many people! Tour buses lined up for miles, waiting to get in. (Literally, miles.) Our driver dropped us off a few miles away and we walked to the front entrance. I've never seen so many people and pandemonium. The Colosseum in Rome, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, didn't have crowds as crazy as this. Perhaps it's because Chichen Itza recently became one of the top 7 wonders in the world.
We had a tour guide, and he was pretty funny. He talked about the Maya culture, and what the buildings were used for, and then we talked about warrior practices and the funny hip game that they played in the movie El Dorado. He also showed us some cool poses to do, which didn't turn out when we tried them. Unfortunately, we didn't have a ton of time allotted to us to view the whole grounds. (Especially since we were running late). It was absolutely surreal and breath taking. I hadn't been so awestruck since I saw the Tower of Pisa. It's such an iconic figure, and it was amazing to see it in the flesh.
Everyone got to the tour bus on time, except one Italian guy who delayed us 45 minutes, because he lost his wallet. We were tired, and we were already over schedule, but we still had two stops to make.
We went to a Cenote, which was awesome. It was a very refreshing escape from the unforgiving Yucatan sun. We didn't have enough time, I would have stayed there all day if I could have.
We then ended our tour at the small colonial town of Valloid. We got home around 9:30 pm. As were about to get to our hotel, they did one final shake-down asking us for more money. I gave some because, I don't think that they make much of a profit with our cheap tickets, and they had to stay extra late. We were exhausted after today! It was a little disorganized, it felt a little dishonest with all the shake-downs, but we overall satisfied, because we saw Chichen Itza, and got some fantastic photos.