About Us

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Guatemala City, Guatemala
We have been called as missionaries with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to serve with the Perpetual Education Fund in the Central America Area. We are living in Guatemala City, Guatemala and we work at the area office. Our assignment is to visit with the Stake PEF Specialists in all seven countries, to train and assist them in this inspired program.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Week of December 15th-Dec. 21st, 2008

15 December 2008…..Monday
I went to the office this morning wondering how well my day would go, but I actually did just fine all day and it was nice not to have any re-runs from the previous days. We hit the jackpot! Pouch mail comes on Monday and we had 8 Christmas cards. I loved reading them. I have always loved getting mail, but I never anticipated being able to have Christmas cards in Guatemala. Unfortunately, Dick’s driver’s license and our credit card have not arrived and it has been many weeks. One pick pocket has sure made things difficult.
We were very busy this morning. I had a lot of catch-up to do after missing two days last week. I had completely forgotten that today was our monthly PEF Committee Meeting. It actually ended up being shorter than usual. I was on the agenda, again, to say the opening prayer. We left the office about 2:30 and made a stop at Paiz to pay the electric bill…. Q946…or $125. Then we went to the Meykos Pharmacy and Dick got more allergy meds. His allergies are no better here or no worse. I thought I would lie down for a few minutes when we got home and that is what I did. After about 3 minutes I got up and made candy…..pralines. My usual complaint….cooking here seldom turns out the way it does at home. The brown sugar does not pack down and is very grainy, though the candy wasn’t grainy. Sugar is not as sweet here. It worked out good enough to share.
Tilleys had a few office families over to make gingerbread houses. It was a fun activity for the children. We popped in and out and had dinner with the group.
Family home evening was at the Taylor’s and Gert gave the lesson. He is 77 and from Austria. His grandfather was a lawyer and his father a doctor and they were Nazi’s, but never prosecuted because they did not participate in war crimes. He joined the Church here in Guatemala about 15 years ago. He told us he has gone from a Nazi atheist to being a Mormon boy. He has an abiding testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and is amazing to listen to.
Today is Myrna’s 29th birthday

16 December 2008…..Tuesday
I was a big hit at the office today because I brought in a plate of fudge. I try to make sure the guard at the front door gets whatever I bring in and the girl at the reception desk. Word travels fast here when Marilyn or I bring in goodies. On the way home from the office we stopped at the Candlearia, a candle store, and bought paraffin to use with chocolate chips for dipping. We have looked everywhere for over a month for paraffin and Jose, a young man who works in the office garage was going to take Dick to the center of the city to a candle store to find it. Then Jose opened the phone book and discovered there is one here in Zone 14. It happens to be on Las Americas Blvd., just a couple of blocks from us. The peanut clusters turned out good. I tried the McNeal’s toffee and it turned out a mess like the almond crunch….the sugar and butter stayed separated even after boiling for 13 minutes.
Today is the day we were supposed to go the CCM (missionary training center) and spend three days with the missionaries who are returning to Guatemala from their missions so they can have PEF training. There were only 3 returning home so instead of running the classes for just three they will be invited to come to the next training. I had a busy morning getting the November report done for Elder Clarke. I still have the hardest part left to do as I have to decipher other reports to enter on this one. One good result is that there are 34 more PEF participants this month than last month in the 19 stakes in Guatemala City. At noon the women went to La Estancia for our BMW (beautiful Mormon women) lunch for Americanos. The guys walked over to the Chinese restaurant. Afterwards we met in Taylor’s office and discussed plans for the holidays: the visit to the home for children who have been neglected or abused, our Christmas Eve celebration at the CCM with the missionaries, and Christmas dinner.
I have been making Christmas candy since we got home. Now I am going to email pictures of Tikal to Kayla who is doing a report on Guatemala for her Spanish IV class.

17 December 2008…..Wednesday

Eyes lit up at the office again today when I walked in with a plate of peanut clusters. I worked on my report for most of the morning. About 12:30 pm we left and went to the mall for haircuts. The mall was very busy and very festive. We had lunch at Pollo Compero at the food court. I sat down at the only available table while Dick was ordering our food. A young man was sitting at a nearby table. He asked which mission we were serving in. He is 26, married and has a child, and he has graduated with an engineering degree but he wants to get a master’s degree. His wife has also graduated but wants to further her education. They are both thinking about using PEF but it is likely they can pay their own way. The Fund steps in only after the candidate and the family cannot afford to pay. We talked to him for awhile and Dick gave him his card and told him to call him. Our little black name tags give us many opportunities for conversations.
Tilleys came in when they got home and we talked about plans for the next week before Christmas. We may not be at home in the midst of the usual Christmas preparations but we are busy here with our new Christmas traditions to accomplish. I made chocolate chip muffins with dried cranberries. They turned out really good. I took two hot ones next door to Tilleys and I will take the rest to the office.

18 December 2008…..Thursday

Today I carried muffins into the office. I took our chocolate house to Reynaldo to take home to his family. I worked on the November report. I’m at the point that I can’t do an entry until Dick calls the specialist to get the information. We get emails from 4 or 5 and he has to call the others. Tilleys came into our office before noon and told us to stop what we were doing because we were going to lunch. We went to La Crépe. They have all kinds of crepes but I had broccoli soup that was loaded with tons of cheese. It was very good.
After leaving the office we stopped at Paiz for some items. I made my Nutty Nibbles (cinnamon spiced pecans) tonight. I put fudge, peanut clusters, and pralines in some small Christmas bowls and Dick delivered them to our neighbors and then he took a plate downstairs for the guy at the front desk and the security guard. Hermana Rowley and Hermana Jones came by and sang a Christmas song for us and then gave us a gift of hot chocolate mix from Antigua. Yum! We all eventually ended up in Taylor’s apartment with all the items that we have purchased for our Christmas project on Saturday. We have made over 120 fleece blankets to take to the Lion’s Club home for children. (Some of us gave our fleece to the Central Mission because Sister Baldwin wanted the missionaries to make some quilts as a service project during zone conferences, then she gave the completed blankets to us). There are 80 children, 6 months to 10 years. We also purchased an assortment of cute children’s books, and Jennifer Robertson has made or purchased a Christmas stocking for each child. The Church Humanitarian Services has provided $2500 for the purchase of medicines, infant formula, diapers, and a toy for each child. Plus, they have donated school kits for each child.

19 December 2008…..Friday
It was a short day at the office. I took a bowl of spiced pecans. I took a smaller plate of fudge for Reynaldo. At 9 the Tilleys came to our office and we left for the temple. The temple was packed! With only two small endowment rooms there would be a long wait, and we didn’t want to take the precious space from the number of faithful saints there. There were 4 or 5 buses that had brought members from long distances. We wrote some names on the prayer roll and then left. The matron of the temple told us that every Christmas Eve at midnight a bus leaves Honduras to come to the temple. It takes them many, many hours. They bring their children with them. They arrive late on Christmas Day, stay at Casa Huespedes, then they can be at the temple early the day after Christmas. The faithfulness of the people and their desire to be in the temple is very touching. I hugged some sisters walking into the temple as we were leaving. One was elderly, dressed in native dress, yet in the temple we all dress in white and there is no distinguishing between wealth or poverty.
We went to PriceSmart to get granola bars for the children’s Christmas stocking and Fruit Loops to put in baggies for the little ones. We took our purchases home, then left again to go back to the area of the temple for lunch at Zurich, the chocolateria. Quiche and chocolate milk tasted so good. There is a small LDS bookstore in the little mall there. I went in the store that sells only sweaters. After using my limited Spanish I had Dick come in. I bought a red sweater with a matching cardigan. Now I will feel festive for Christmas. We then drove to the marketplace where I felt the need to guard my handbag closely. We bought tangerines that they call Mandarins, and some small apples to put in the Christmas stockings for the older children.
Everyone gathered in our apartment tonight to fill the stockings and make final preparations for our experience with the children tomorrow.

20 December 2008…..Saturday

This morning we loaded cars with all that we were taking to the children’s home in San Pedro Sacadepequez. We rode with the Christensens. He is the first counselor in the area presidency. It took about an hour to get there. We traveled through beautiful countryside of narrow winding roads. The home for abused and neglected children is neat and orderly, though far from new. The five women/girls who care for the children do a marvelous job. The children are happy, well behaved, dressed nicely and they even smell clean. There are about 70 children in residence now, infants to about 8 years old. It seems that the children in Guatemala are older than they look, probably from their Mayan background. To describe the experience is almost impossible. I had to fight the tears at times, yet I was happy to be there and see that these precious little ones are safe in their environment, now. From the time they were brought into the room where we were, they were very friendly. The toddlers, especially. They would grab us around the leg and reach up to be held. One little boy hung onto Dick. When they did the piñatas he would run for candy and then run back to Dick. It was so easy to just hold and hug these little ones. All of us missionaries sang “I Am A Child of God” to them. The older children played games and sang songs. Sister Jones and Sister King led them in Spanish fun songs. Sister Tilley, Sister Taylor and the Blackburns did little games with them, like the bean bag toss, button, button and pin the star on the Christmas Tree. Most of the time we just held babies, those not walking yet. We went and got them out of their cribs. I had Angie for most of the time. They say she is a year. She has many teeth. She had a bottle when I picked her up and we went out onto the grass courtyard with all the children. After she finished her bottle she really perked up. When the older children were doing their activities she would clap her little hands and kick her feet. She was the most animated of all the babies. The older children would come over and talk to her. One little one who didn’t walk was small, four years old, and would not make eye contact. From abuse, neglect, or birth, she was clearly disabled.
Then we went back inside and they lined up by age and each were given a fleece blanket and a toy. It was precious to watch. They will be given their stockings on Christmas. Their rooms all have fleece blankets on their beds, but they will stay there when the child leaves after three months. ( A judge determines if they go to foster care or back to parents). They will each be able to take their new blanket with them. We were there 2 ½ hours, most of the time I had one or two babies in my arms. When we said goodbye the toddlers were just coming from their lunch room and I had 5 tiny little girls run over and hug me. Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren are so blessed to be in homes where they are loved, cared for and protected. It doesn’t require money, just love. The love I have for my children, now that they are all adults, has compounded with every passing year. I love them so much. To see the generations multiply is a rich blessing……our posterity, numbering 58 with the birth of Kelsey and Blake’s baby next month, means more people for me to love.
Dick and the other “guys” went to Elder Clarke’s home to watch BYU football. I worked on my Shutterfly album and made ganache for truffles. “Elf” was on the CBS station and so I had that on while I was in the kitchen for just a little bit of a Christmas movie. Johnny, who lives in the apartment above us is trying to be a musician. He is an Israeli who works for the Brazilian Embassy. But, at night he starts on the guitar and/or drums. It is so loud right now that I can’t hear the movie or the CD of “The Messiah.” In fact, I can’t hear myself think. It is especially annoying when I try to read the scriptures or pray. My Ambien gets me to sleep each night but last night I didn’t stay asleep because I could hear him still at 2 am and that kept me awake an hour. We have all tried to be really kind to him. Several times Taylors have had to go to his door after 11 pm and tell him that we cannot sleep and please stop the music. They are about ready to find another apartment building. His music has been occasional until the last couple of weeks. Now it is often and loud and not the kind of music any of us want to hear. I think the problem will be taken to Nancy, the manager. Of the 15 apartments only 9 are occupied. Seven of those are occupied by us missionaries and they can’t afford to lose us or they would have no income.

A sweet story told by Sister Clarke, wife of our Area President. At one of the temples, not Guatemala, the temple workers discovered a baby and there was no mother anywhere. The baby was very good and very content, never fussed or cried. Finally, after an hour and a half, a young mother appeared to get her baby. They asked why she had left the baby unattended. She replied that she needed to be in the temple and there was no one she could leave the baby with, so she prayed that the deceased sister, whose work she would be doing that day, would watch over her baby.

21 December 2008…..Sunday

We were out the door early, by 6:45 am, to go to Church. We met Jose, who works in the office garage, at a Pollo Campero. He rode the bus to get there. He got in the car and directed us to the chapel where he lives, but after getting us there he got on another bus to go to his stake center for a young adult meeting. He is a sweetheart.

We attended Pinares II Ward, Alameda Stake. This building is in Zone 18, considered the most dangerous area of Guatemala City. We were asked if any of us played the piano and Rexene was quick to tell them that I did. I played prelude music of a couple of Christmas hymns but just before the meeting started the pianist arrived. At the conclusion of Sacrament Meeting the Primary children sang. That brought a tear or two. There were 7 children and 3 teachers. After the meeting we met with the specialist. He is a very outgoing man who knows everyone. He teaches two nights a week at the Institute.

I tried to have a long nap when we got home but ended up with a short one. We had our traditional Halloween meal of chalupa. I have wanted to have it for many weeks but could never find Fritos. We found some when we were in Belize. Tilleys and Blackburns came for dinner and we played Mexican Train dominoes. We Skyped with Mark, Scott and Alison's families today.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Week of December 10th-Dec.14th, 2008

10 December 2008…..Wednesday
A little after 11 am we were invited into the conference room where there was a beautiful cake with peaches and strawberries on top, plus other snacks and soda. Then Sister Saenz came in. It was a little farewell gathering for her as she has completed her 18 months of missionary service and will be going home to Mixco, a city that borders Guatemala City. She has run the PEF call center for her entire mission and has done a spectacular job. It will be hard to replace her. Rexene bought a fleece comforter for her and then missionaries and employees signed red cut out hearts that Rexene sewed on the comforter. I will miss her.

I made almond crunch and it sure turned out differently than usual. The butter was totally separated making a “drier” taste and not nearly as rich. The sugar tastes like it isn’t as sweet as the sugar in the states. Anyway, it was edible but not up to par.

11 December 2008…..Thursday

I was just about dressed this morning for my day at the office when diarrhea set in. A short time later I was aching all over plus a head ache. Tilleys came over and Dick and Jim gave me a blessing. We stayed home, needless to say. I was feverish. I laid down at 8 am and slept most of the morning. At noon I got up, took two more Tylenol and laid down and slept till 4 pm. Right now it is 8:30 pm and I still feel achy but not nearly as bad as this morning. During the day my ankles, knees, wrists and elbows hurt. My head still aches. Tilleys stopped by this evening to check on me and Marilyn Bawden called. Dean Bawden calls this tourist flu. The worst part of all this was today was a day I looked forward to. This morning there was an Area Christmas Devotional at the Marriott Hotel, followed by a meal. They tell me it was excellent. Late this afternoon the security attaché from the American Embassy was at the office to talk to all Americans about security issues.

12 December 2008…..Friday
I slept well last night. I woke with less aches and pains but weak, and intestinal problems still plagued me throughout the day. Dick rode to work with Tilleys. I worked on my Shutterfly photo album. It’s amazing how well my computer entertains me. The computer says the high here today was 61 degrees and at 4 pm it was 59 degrees…..eternal spring?....I think not. We have a CD of the best known songs from The Messiah and I really enjoy my favorite Christmas music.
Kim Taylor, our mission doctor (ophthalmologist) called to check on me. He wanted to make sure my symptoms weren’t Dengue fever. Actually, my muscle and joint aches were hardly severe enough to be Dengue and part of the aches was probably from lying in bed for so long. I appreciate his concern. Later he made a house call and brought grapes and pineapple. Tilleys came in for awhile to check on me.
Dick came home from the office with a card signed by the First Presidency and a gift from them, a lovely edition of “Jesus the Christ” in Spanish. It is something we will treasure. Maybe someday I will be able to read it with understanding. Maybe not.

13 December 2008…..Saturday
I woke before 6 am, which is pretty common. My sleep patterns have adjusted to our schedule the last 3 months. I felt pretty good. It was 48 degrees at 7 am. The coldest I have seen here on Weatherchannel.com. I did some cleaning and got four loads of laundry done. Then I was feeling weak. We went with Tilleys and Blackburns to buy some Christmas ornaments they had seen, but the little shop had none and said they would have more next week. I was ready to come home, anyway. We stopped at Paiz and the parking lot was full and there was a line of cars waiting to get in. Rexene ran in to get a couple of items and we drove across the street and Dick got me a frosty. We came home and I laid down and slept three hours. I woke with a pounding headache. Guess I’m not going to get through this as quickly as I thought.

14 December 2008…..Sunday
I’m still feeling a little shaky but went to Church today. We went to Amátitlan Stake. We would have had an epic lost adventure, but the stake specialist, Brother Cardona said to call him when we got to Hyper Paiz (Super Walmart) and he would come lead us. We made a wrong turn just before we got there and never saw Hyper Paiz, so we pulled into another parking lot and called. He was there in a matter of a few minutes. The great thing was he brought a friend who drove his vehicle to church and Brother Cardona got in with us. There is no map in the world or directions that could have helped us find the building. We needed him in the car to guide us. There were many turns down narrow streets lined with shops. He is a single 30 year old who is using the Fund. After Sacrament Meeting we met with him and we are very impressed. He is among the best specialists that we have met. His employment is with CES which is an added help in his calling with the Fund.
Sacrament Meeting was most enjoyable, though I understand little. No accompaniment for singing, which has been the norm wherever we attend. We sang “Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plain.” They have their own melody for the first couple of bars of the chorus. In fact, we sang that song in another ward a few weeks ago with the same “different” melody. Every chorister has a low voice and starts the songs very low…..imagine, a song too low for me! But, for the first time in 50 years I am singing soprano.
The Bishop was the closing speaker and I could feel his spirit and his humor. I understood when he was speaking of Mary an,, you probably will have to remind him and encourage him. I know that Josh, on the other side of the veil, must surely provide a blessing and influence on his children, too.
Because I was still not feeling to swift we left after Sunday School. Tilleys invited us to come eat but we came in our own apartment, had sausage and eggs and I took a 2 ½ hour nap. Whatever is wrong with me requires sleep and I always feel better after my nap.
Part of our lights are off. While I was typing my journal all the bedroom lights went off, but the computer is still on. The TV, CD player, refrigerator and Christmas tree lights are off. Our house phone, for calling other apartments only, was not working. Dick knocked on Tilley’s door and they had a similar problem. As Dick and Jim headed down to the office I heard a generator come on. It hasn’t made much difference. It is keeping the garage and hall lights on which is very important for safety. I’m glad none of us were on the elevator when this happened. Jim called the other missionaries and everyone has some lights on and some off. At least I can finish my journal but I will have to shower in the dark. I will email my journal when I have internet back up and running.
UPDATE: We were completely in the dark for about 45 minutes. We have one small flashlight but now we know we better get two more. Everything was dark but the computer worked on its own battery and gave off a little light. We sat in front of the screen and watched a slide show of all our pictures from Switzerland four years ago. Now I have light in the bathroom so time to get ready for bed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Week of December 1st to Dec 9th 2008

1 December 2008…..Monday
What a great day! Dick was up early for the fishing trip to the Pacific Ocean with 15 others. I got up and made him a sandwich for breakfast of cheese and sausages. We had prayer together and he was out the door before 4:45 am. I went back to bed but sleep was fleeting and when I finally slept I dreamed the apartment was collapsing. I spent the day doing various little projects on the computer. I actually sat down and read our Guatemalan tour book for about an hour. (Thanks, Anita!) I made tamale pie for our FHE tonight. I love to be home, even in a small apartment in Guatemala!
The fishermen, and a few women, arrived home in time to clean up and go over to the Clarke’s for a farewell dinner for missionaries going home in the next month: Kern’s leave Wednesday for South Dakota; Sister Saenz leaves the mission in two weeks for her home in Mixco, Guatemala; Sister Rowley goes home in January to San Diego; and the Lindbergs, who have served in an outlying area, return to Fillmore, UT in a few days. We had an enjoyable potluck meal and entertainment by a children’s bell choir. They were very good.
Dick had a great time fishing. They had two comfortable, clean boats with 8 on each boat. Dick caught 1 Dorado that was about 40 inches long and a small tuna. Other kinds of fish caught were sailfish and someone caught a marlin. It was a very nice excursion for them in the warm Pacific waters, not cold like Pismo Beach.
When we were getting ready for dinner, Skype started ringing. It was Joey. His school assignment was to interview someone in the family. I love the fact that our ten year old grandson in Philadelphia can call us whenever he wants to talk to us.

2 December 2008…..Tuesday

It was overcast driving to the office today. It is nice to drive when the sun isn´t glaring in our eyes. We feel so much closer to the sun here. We left the office for about an hour with Tilleys to find a good map of Belize. The map store was not there anymore. So we stopped at Price Smart because it has a safe ATM and Jim needed some quetzales. Back at the office we kept busy with things we needed to do to wind up November and to make our trip to Belize on Thursday.

We went to Paiz on the way home from the office and picked up some lights and a few little decorations for our tree…..actually, our largest silk plant is serving as our Christmas tree this year. We moved the furniture so it can sit in front of our huge window and be viewed by the people in the apartments behind us. Very festive.

3 December 2008…..Wednesday
Today we are trying to pull everything together here for our trip. Dick is working with the computer and projector for our fireside. Last night he tried to get some calls through to Belize to invite our PEF participants to the fireside but only succeeded with one call. It was to Karine Lopez. She was excited to know we are coming and said she would be there. She also told him that when this semester ends in a couple of weeks she will put her loan on hold as she is filling out her mission papers so she can go on a mission. We are so excited for her and even proud of her. Now we are more than anxious to meet her.
Yesterday Tilleys found out that there was not a fleet car for us to take to Belize. Weeks ago he had asked for one of the 4 wheel drive vehicles and yesterday he was told they were all busy. We would have to take Tilleys Corolla. Definitely not very roomy. Before we left the office Marilyn Bawden suggested we take their bigger car, a Chrysler Caravan (Dodge Caravan in the states). It really worked out well. Dick took Bawdens to the airport early this morning. They flew to SLC for her dad’s funeral. So, we have their car today. We will give Hermana Rowley and Hermana Jones the keys to our car for them to use while we are gone. Tilleys will leave their car for Bawdens when they come back on Sunday. We will travel in much greater comfort now. This is like musical cars….that’s a play on musical chairs. Usually it is a game of parking places for us. Some of us have difficult parking places (to say the least) at the apartments. I’m sure the workers there must laugh at the parking of the cars. The big apartment across the hall from us has been vacant for six weeks. Sometimes we park in that space. If Bawdens are away, Tilleys will take their parking place. Kings (he had to crawl across to the passenger side to get out of his car) used the sisters parking place since they rarely have a vehicle. Now Kings have been given a better parking spot so we park in the sister’s parking space. It keeps life interesting.
All of the missionary couples have church vehicles….except us. So, we bought our car, we pay for our own gas, insurance, and maintenance. We think it is because President Hinckley vowed that the sacred tithing funds of the church would not be used to support the Perpetual Education Fund. When we travel for church business everything is paid for…..meals, hotels, gas, airline tickets, etc. We have a Visa card from the church. We have turned in a gas receipt once in the three months we have been here to cover the gas of driving for our assignment. Most of the time we go with others who don’t have to pay for their own gas.
I have learned new things about the computer in the last few months, like ES (Español) and EN (English)….changing the language when I type. If it is not on ES I cannot type ñññ or á ó é í ú. If it is not on EN I cannot type @ which I use a lot for email addresses. I have a Spanish keyboard so if I want to type ? it is on the top, right key. But if I am on EN the ? is the bottom right key which shows _-. I know, totally confusing. Many of the punctuation marks are not where they are on an English keyboard. I just wanted to record this one tidbit of information about life in a Spanish society.
At our dinner last Monday night we were sitting next to Elder and Sister Clarke. Two children of the Robertson’s (he is the church employee over finances) were seated by us. The elder daughter is 17. She is headed to Provo this month to begin cosmetology school (where Kelsey went) and study to be an esthetician. Then she will use that to support herself to become a special education teacher. She had been at the national girl’s camp last week and was telling us about what a great experience it was. Elder Clarke asked her to send him a handwritten letter telling all about her experiences. Then he told her he would send it to the Prophet. How exciting for this beautiful, talented young girl to have the privilege of President Monson receiving her letter.
Rexene had to have an emergency root canal today. Better here than in the US ….only $130 and the doctor was trained in Texas. They left their car at the office garage to be used if necessary and rode home with us. After we got home we put our things down and left again to go to the cleaners to leave dirty white shirts and get clean ones. We came home. A few minutes later Dick said he needed to go to the pharmacy. So we left again to get him some Allegra D. No prescription needed. It was good to get back home and stay home. And pack. Dick made a call to Belize and Leovany told him he had “something to tell Sister Graff” when we see him on Sunday.
Today we had an email from Dana saying Kelsey had been in the hospital with contractions and bleeding. She is doing better now but she has to go on maternity leave right away. Our baby girl isn’t due till the end of January. Then an email from Jill. She had a doctor’s appointment and he was unhappy with all the swelling she still has. So she went to the emergency room to have an ultrasound to check for blood clots. We just got off the phone with her. She has none, but needs to be monitored by her doctor and by the plastic surgeon. Worrisome days are part of life and they are also days of many prayers.

4 December 2008…..Thursday
We left before the sun came up, stopped for gas, and headed out of the city. Over an hour into the trip we came to a halt. We were stopped in our lane for 25 minutes while the oncoming lane continued to go. Finally, we were able to go. About 15 minutes later we came to road construction in a very small area and the opposing lane was stopped and that line was miles long. The most hectic part of the trip was many, many trucks on the road. These are not new 18 wheelers like in the states but old trucks, dump trucks, petroleum trucks, etc. going down the two lane road from 5,000 feet in the city to the lowlands. Every time we have left the city we find very poor areas and most of the people in native dress. For hours we drove through areas that looked like the people had a modest income and a way of supporting themselves. There were many small ranches with cattle. We saw no one in native dress for hours and just a few after that for the entire 8 hour trip to Flores.
To get to Belize requires heading northeast from Guatemala City, driving on the road that goes to Puerto Barrios, Honduras. At Rio Dulce, Guatemala, on the edge of Lake Isabal we made a left turn and angled north and west through the Peten area to Flores and Lake Peten. It is very beautiful. Many of the houses had thatched roofs, something we have not seen before in Guatemala. We saw palm trees intermingled with tall pine trees. A very interesting combination. We saw some cactus. It was green and in areas it was jungle-like. We encountered some light rain.

Flores was a Mayan city. It is an island on a lake. We found our hotel which was in Santa Elena right near the bridge going to Flores. The room was very small. We had a great view of the island out our window. Elder Boman met us and went with us to drive around and see Flores and Santa Elena and 3 chapels in the area. Sister Boman was busy cooking for a zone conference Christmas dinner tomorrow. They have been serving there for a year. It is 8 hours from the mission home for the Guatemala City North Mission and the Bomans do a great job looking after the missionaries. It was in the mid 80’s when we arrived but it is very hot most of the year. At 7 pm we went to dinner with Bomans and also the Taylors (our neighbors and mission doctor) and President and Sister Torres, North Mission president.
We drove back to Flores and had dinner outside, at Capitan Tortuga, a restaurant next to the lake. I had beef tacos that were small, fresh flour tortillas filled with a fajita-type mixture. I had the pineapple juice with milk drink. During the course of dinner the lights went out at the restaurant as did all the lights across the water in Santa Elena. Soon we had waiters put candles on our table. Then I heard a noise and I knew it was a generator starting up. The restaurant lights came on. A little later the lights came back on around us in Flores and across the lake. That was a relief. I didn’t want to return to our hotel and have the power off.

5 December 2008…..Friday

This morning we left the hotel by 7:30 am. We ate pumpkin muffins that I had brought. That ended up being breakfast. As soon as we left the city of Santa Elena we were on bad roads…full of potholes….and then many miles of unpaved roads. The unpaved roads were easier travelling than the pot hole roads. We had to laugh when these horrible roads had speed bumps. We saw many things IN the road….pigs, chickens, dogs, dogs, and more dogs. None of them even look up when Jim honks the horn. Some dogs were lying down in the road. We even saw my favorite kind of snake…..a dead one. It was quite large. I hate snakes!
It took us about an hour and a half to get to the border. We took our passports and got out of the car and went over to where the lines were. One line was for those leaving Belize to go into Guatemala. The other was for those leaving Guatemala and entering Belize. Our line was the longest. We had our passports stamped and paid Q20 a piece. Then Jim had paperwork for the car that needed to be stamped. We drove about a hundred feet and got out. Jim had to have the car registered and the paperwork stamped to enter Belize. Then we went in another building and they stamped our passports. This side was all English speaking. YAY!!! A language I can understand. Then we had to get our luggage out of the car and bring it into the building. The guy looked inside Tilley’s luggage and was asking us about our black badges. Jim explained what we would be doing in Belize. When he was finished with their language he passed us on through and said he didn’t need to look inside. We loaded the luggage back in the car, drove a few hundred feet and had to stop and buy car insurance for the three days we will be in Belize. Finally, after one and a half hours, we were through the border.
The difference in the road was wonderful. We enjoyed a more comfortable ride. There is a different feeling in Belize. It is definitely a Caribbean country, not Hispanic. We drove through San Ignacio and saw the chapel where we will be doing our fireside on Sunday. We drove through Belmopan, the capital of Belize. We stopped at the American Embassy so Jim could talk to the DEA attaché. That was an interesting procedure of passports and security checks to get us into the Embassy. It was interesting to sit and listen to the conversation. (Jim is retired from drug enforcement). We were told that Belize is quite safe. The problems lie in one area of Belize City where the gangs, who call themselves Bloods and Crips (sounds like Los Angeles), kill each other. There is no razor wire around the chapels like in Guatemala. There are no armed guards everywhere like in Guatemala. We arrived in Belize City after an hour’s drive, and passed another chapel. We called Kebin Gongora and he met us and took us to the Princessa Hotel.

The hotel is large and on the water’s edge. We were more than ready for lunch after the drive and only having munchies since there is no place that we would stop or even could stop to eat. We walked out the back door of the hotel and down a short path to Calypso, a dining area for the hotel. I had the seafood chowder. It had a good flavor with potatoes, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli, plus shrimp and various pieces of fish. We finished eating at 4 pm. It was a lovely day and the temperatures were very comfortable.
ALERT: more mentions of food….three of the kids have mentioned that I talk about food a lot. I guess that shows how much importance I place on food in my life. At six we met Kebin and his wife, Francine, in the lobby, then followed them to a restaurant called Celebrity. I had fish and chips and cole slaw, followed by pineapple pie. We enjoyed talking with them. They are expecting their first baby in March after going to Guatemala City for fertility treatments. He is turning 30 this month and she is 28. He served his mission in El Salvador and she served a mission in Panama. He is funny and kept us laughing. He is employed by the Church as the facilities management director of Belize. He was one of the first participants with PEF in Belize. His real dream is to be an architect. He thought he would be too old to use the Fund again, but we told him to apply now.
The hotel parking lot was crammed when we got back. This hotel has a casino, a movie theater and a bowling alley off the lobby, so it was a jumping place on a Friday night. In our room on the fifth floor I could faintly hear the roar of a movie. Out our front door balcony was a big lighted field with a soccer game going. I worked on my journal while Dick channel surfed and almost every channel was in English.

6 December 2008…..Saturday

Today Alie is 7. I could never take care of all the birthdays from Central America. Thank goodness Jill took that over. It is almost a fulltime job. She has already taken care of our Christmas shopping and shipping of gift cards. Just before I crawled in bed last night I heard a noise, and sure enough there was rain coming down against the window. It was lightly raining when we got up this morning. We met Tilleys in the restaurant for our complimentary breakfast.
Kelbin met us at 9 am and rode with us to see two of the chapels. First we drove for two hours to the north and saw the small chapel in Orange Walk. We had to stop and pick up the key from the custodian, a sister in the branch, Sister Allen. Her son Wosani recently returned from a mission in Idaho and her daughter, Ardis served in Florida. They were all in the front yard and we met them. They both want to use PEF for their education. We gave them the handouts that I had translated into English and our business cards with all our phone numbers. We are excited to find some who want to use the Fund. We will be in touch with info and encouragement.
Then we drove west to the town of Corazol on the shores of the Caribbean to see the chapel there. Kebin tells us both areas are safe and there are no problems with break-ins or anything else. So different than Guate where many of the buildings have a variety of problems. It is 10 miles to Mexico’s southern border. Belizeans like to go over there for Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Burger King, etc. There are no fast food places in Belize. Belize has a population of about 280,000 and 70,000 live in Belize City. Towns are few and far between. We got back to the hotel at 3 pm. We did a lot of driving.
We bought a Magnum ice cream bar when we got to the hotel/cinema lobby. It was excellent. I have never seen them before but Tilleys ate them when they were living in Ecuador. We went out a little later. We would love a nativity set from Belize but the only one we have seen was made in China. We did find a grocery store that looked American. It had many of the name products that we might see at home. We bought two bags of Fritos to have our chili specialty. I have not seen Fritos in any of the stores of Guate.
Dinner was at the Sea View Restaurant here at the hotel. Buffet is not my favorite way to eat because I love to be waited on, but each dish I tried was very tasty and very well seasoned. Back in our room I worked on my journal. We can buy an hour’s worth of internet here in our room for 10 dollars (Belizean) which works out to 5 American dollars. I was able to check email and make sure that Jill and Kelsey are doing ok.

7 December 2008…..Sunday

We woke up to rain again today. We attended Sacrament Meeting in Cinderella Branch (thought our granddaughters would like that). The branch president, Jaime Chi, conducted. He would say something in English and then repeat it in Spanish. The hymns were in English. There were less than 30 in attendance. It was testimony meeting and some would do it in English and then Spanish. It is an English speaking country. The branch president’s three young children spoke in English and then his wife spoke in Spanish. It seems that many people speak both language plus Creole. I am impressed with all the languages they know. I still struggle with Spanish.
The district president for the Belize City district and his wife live in the branch. They are El Salvadorans and only speak Spanish. One of his counselors only speaks English. The other counselor , Brother Munoz, also lives in that branch and he speaks English and Spanish. All of their presidency meetings are conducted with Brother Munoz translating back and forth in the languages. He is a wonderful man and we enjoyed visiting with him.
The Tilleys did their security check. This building has had problems with the neighborhood coming over the fence and playing basketball. They spray graffiti on the surrounding block wall around the basketball court to the rear of the chapel. In many areas the Church works with the neighborhood and allows them to use soccer or basketball areas. The trouble here is that the ones invading the Church property are Bloods and Crips. They have tried to take it over. One night the two gangs were throwing grenades at each other. The branch members can’t use their building at night or for youth activities because of the problem.
We checked out of the hotel and headed back to San Ignacio, near the border. We checked into the San Ignacio Resort Hotel and then went and found the chapel. The gates were locked and Kebin wasn’t there yet to let us in. Two young women came walking to the building. They were 17 and 18 and had ridden a bus for 30 minutes to come to the fireside.
Finally, Kebin showed up and a few more. It was very fun for me to meet three of the PEF students that I call or email……Leovany Lopez and his sister, Karine, and Felipe Alfaro. As I shook Felipe’s hand he said, “Hi Sister Graff, it’s me, Felipe.” So, I hugged him. That is the line he writes when he sends me an email. I loved meeting them. I took two little outfits for Hanna’s baby. She wasn’t there but Karine pointed out her sister to me. We ended up with 25 in attendance and we were thrilled. Kebin conducted the meeting, his wife led the singing, and I played “O, Come all Ye Faithful.” It is the first time I’ve sat at the piano since I left mine behind. Dick spoke. He invited a few to bear their testimony of PEF, and Kebin concluded with his touching testimony. We had a number of questions afterwards from some who are very interested in using the program.
We arrived back at the hotel about 6 pm and went to the hotel restaurant, The Running W Steak House. I decided to have a Belizean meal, Cayo Bollos Platter, two tamales of chicken, vegetables and cheese wrapped in a banana leaf and served with fresh, not-spicy salsa. I put a little extra fire habanero sauce on it. It was hot but left me wanting more. It has been a good fast Sunday. We have had special concerns and prayers for Kelsey and the baby through these last weeks of pregnancy, Jill whose recovery from surgery needs a boost, and Bethany, Hannah and Emma. All three of them had their tonsils and adenoids out a few days ago, sort of a mother/daughters activity. Hopefully, they will all stay well this winter. Dennis is having rotator cuff surgery on Tuesday and Cyndy is having some testing done on Thursday.

8 December 2008…..Monday

This morning we were back at the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Banana pancakes and bacon sounded very Belizean and they tasted very good. The trip out of town went well and we were at the border in good time. First, we had to get out of the car and take our passports into a building to be stamped. Then to another counter where we paid $37.50 per couple to leave the country of Belize. Then the car had to be checked through and the paperwork stamped that it left the country. Next the car had to be driven through an area that looked like a carwash and it was sprayed with a fumigant. Don’t know what good it did. The spray lasted just a few seconds and only got on the front 2/3 of the car. Then we got out of the car again on the Guatemalan side and checked in through a very short line to be able to enter Guatemala. We were surprised they didn’t ask for money. By 9:15 am we were back on the road again, that is, unpaved roads. We have been very grateful for the Caravan because the Corolla would not have handled the unpaved roads or the potholes in the paved roads like this car has. It is far more comfortable for us.
We drove back to Lake Peten area and then took the road to Tikal. By 11 am we had entered the main gate of Tikal National Park. The speed limit inside the park was 45 kilometers (28 mph). It took us 30minutes to get to the visitor’s center. The low speed limit was to protect the wild animals, though we saw none. There are an assortment of birds, monkeys, snakes, and jaguars, to name a few. We did hear a jaguar’s roar a few times when we were talking to our tour guide. To say the day was interesting would be an understatement. It was extraordinary.
A young tour guide found us as soon as we arrived and we accepted his services. For $50 U.S. he agreed to take the four of us on a tour for 2 hours. We rode a “jungle buggy,” actually a pickup with three benches in the back. We only saw one small area but that was sufficient for us. We got off at Plaza Centro and spent our two hours there.

It is the main centerpiece of Tikal which was established about 900 B.C. Two major temples of the Mayan’s stand facing each other over a large inner area. There are altars for sacrificial offerings. There is a wooden stairway built up one side of one of the temples and Rexene and a few other tourists climbed it. We were content to watch from flat ground. We climbed some other wooden steps to a side area where people lived. All of the structures were built out of limestone blocks. It is incredible! There were a few workers there literally hanging off the sides of the structures, removing every small growths of plants. If they didn’t do it the jungle would once again encroach upon these treasures and bury them. There are many structures yet to be excavated and archaeological digs are going on at other areas. It is an interesting venture for anyone that wants to view the past, but as a Latter –day Saint it brings even greater feelings as we view this area where Book of Mormon people settled and lived. We are so blessed for the opportunity to be there. Our young guide was excellent. His grandparents actually lived in that area but were moved with all the other Mayan community when the ancient structures were discovered. It seems that the Lamanite descendants have been displaced from their homes whether in the U.S. or these more southern climes. Prophecy has been fulfilled many times over. Our guides name was Noell. He told us a little of his family history. Rexene asked him about the religion of the Maya. As he talked he spoke of the Mayan desire to protect animals and plant life because they believed that all living things have spirits. Sounds like the teachings of the gospel to me, for we know that all things were created in the spirit before they were created on earth. This young man is special and Jim walked and talked with him about the Book of Mormon, and he had read some of the things in the Book of Mormon that Jim told him about.
After we were taken back to the visitor’s center Rexene and I bought two corn husk angels for our Christmas trees. We were hungry and tired but it was a good day. It was raining when we got back to Santa Elena. We stopped at Pollo Campero for chicken fast food and ice cream, and came back to the Petén Esplendido where we had spent last Thursday night. It seems like a long time since we stayed here.
Today is Cyndy’s 52nd birthday and Daddy would have been 96.

9 December 2008…..Tuesday
This morning we met Tilleys in the hotel restaurant. We had a wonderful breakfast, seated on the terrace hanging over the waters of Lake Peten. We enjoyed watching a number of turtles as we threw toast into the water and they scrambled for it. It was the typical Guatemalan breakfast of eggs (scrambled with ham and cheese), black beans, fried plantains, juice and we also had hot chocolate. It was a memorable meal and setting with wonderful friends.
Our drive home went very well. We made it in 7 hours.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Week of November 24th to Nov 30th 2008

24 November 2008…..Monday
Last night Dick used Skype and called Dick Peel. They enjoyed a good conversation. It is so good to keep contact with our good friends. These two have 60+ years of friendship.
We had our monthly Perpetual Education Fund Committee Meeting. We were connected via video with the CES director in Santa Ana, El Salvador and Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Elder Clarke always presides at these meetings, and he is a very “take charge” kind of guy. Someday I hope to understand more of what is being said but I do understand parts of it. Our morning was spent updating a couple of reports with the info we gleaned from our Sunday meeting with the specialists.
On the way home we stopped at Paiz for groceries. We got home at 5:30 pm. I changed into my sweats and put groceries away. We used the refried black beans I had made the day before and made burritos with flour tortillas. Before we were through eating Dick mentioned Family Home Evening. I had completely forgotten that it was Monday evening. So I changed back into appropriate clothes and hurried and cleaned the kitchen. We went with Tilleys to the apartment of Sister Barney and Sister Rodriguez. They live a few miles away in another apartment building. The traffic was a little intense and it took us over 30 minutes to get there. We had an excellent lesson based on Elder Bednar’s talk in October Conference about prayer. We focused on praying with gratitude.
Today is Cameron’s 10th birthday.

25 November 2008…..Tuesday
Yesterday Elder Clarke requested the names and stakes of the specialists who are doing a really great job in their calling so he could send them a note and thank them for the work they do. I typed it all up and Dick took it up to his office. We had six specialists, three men and three women, whom we were very impressed with. We told a little about what each of them are doing in their stake. Although I don’t understand a lot of what Dick and the specialist is talking about, I feel a great spirit with them and I really do feel the intents of their heart. It allows me to listen in a way that I might not do if I understood every word.
Some of us missionaries are making Christmas cards to give to one of the mission presidents. He will give them to some of his young missionaries who won’t receive anything from home for Christmas. The hard part is when there is an American companion who gets a lot of stuff from home. But, I would think most American parents sending things to their missionary son/daughter would also send something for his/her companion. There are so many ways to serve here.

26 November 2008…..Wednesday

This is a strange day before Thanksgiving. I was at the office and not home cooking a feast. We were kept busy at the office but I had some time to do some census indexing. Our car has had some brake noises since we got it and Dick was finally able to convince Jorge (church employee responsible for the vehicles) that it is a problem and we shouldn’t have to pay for it because it was an existing condition. So, the car was being repaired and we hitched a ride home with Tilleys. We went to Price Smart for a few items and then stopped at the market…..not a grocery store but the “market,” lots of individual booths. Rexene wanted to buy a variety of fruit and veggies to use as table decorations for Thanksgiving dinner. So she and I shopped and the guys waited in the car. The Bawdens had told me the smells could be over whelming but I didn’t notice anything unusual. I think early in the day they have a lot of raw meat.
We bought filet mignon at Price Smart so we had steak and baked potato for dinner. It sure didn’t taste like a filet…..actually, the flavor wasn’t bad but it was a little tough. Everyone tells us that you can’t buy a tender piece of beef here. Nevertheless, Dick enjoyed it. I baked pecan pies and they turned out looking good. The proof will be in the eating.

27 November 2008…..Thursday….THANKSGIVING
Dick rode to the office with Jim today. Rexene and I stayed in our apartments and cooked. I made pumpkin crisp, my cranberry/jello layered salad, and pumpkin muffins. I had a fun time trying to communicate with the guys who work around the apartments. Mario came up and painted our bathroom. A few weeks ago they repaired the leak we had from the apartment above, and today they worked on covering the mold on the ceiling. Window washers finished up on the job they started a couple of days ago so now the outside of our windows are clean. We all have huge windows in our apartments. Dick got our car back so he was on his own driving back home shortly after noon. I’m sure he relished being in the car alone.
Reynaldo, PEF Area Director, our boss, became a father again today. They had a baby son, Diego Alejandro Nuñez. What a blessed little baby to be born to this little family. They have a little girl, Monica, who just turned 2 last week.
Thanksgiving dinner was on a beautiful, large covered patio at the apartment building of Elder and Sister Clarke. Elder and Sister Christensen, first counselor to Elder Clarke, also live there. It was originally scheduled for 6 pm but it has been so cold lately that it was changed to 3 pm. Actually, the weather the last few days has been much more pleasant. It was 75 degrees when we left for the 5 minute drive. The food was just like at home. Sister Clarke made delicious yams with a pecan topping, just like we always have. Carolyn Taylor put chorizo in her stuffing because Dick had told her we always put Italian sausage in ours. After dinner was not much like our usual Thanksgiving. No talking at the table for an hour, no football and no naps for the men. We all picked up our things and headed back to our homes. Probably all of us are calling kids tonight. The best part, I only had to pick up my own serving dishes with minor leftovers to put away. The worst part…no leftovers to feed us for the next week.

We were able to contact six of our kids to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving. I am so grateful for Skype! We saw Mark, Maren and the girls and Rico, the dog. Mike, Diane and Jesse were there and we talked with them. We saw Megan and Alie and then talked to Alison. We chatted with Kristen and Madi. Jeff just got hooked up with Skype so we saw him, Dana, Jessi and Cameron, plus Kaitlin was home for the holiday from Provo, and we also saw Dixie, the dog. Jon and Marilyn were there and it was good to see and talk to them. We talked by phone to Cyndy and then Dennis. Our family covers all the time zones.

28 November 2008…..Friday
We enjoyed a pleasant day. I took pumpkin muffins to the office to share with the ones working in our area, the receptionist at the front, and the guard who stands there every day in the lobby. Tilleys invited us to go with them at 10:30 so we went to Chimaltenango, about an hour drive, to the National (Guatemala) Girls Camp for the Church. Having been a YW president at the ward and the stake level, I wanted to see this grand operation. Since Alison and Kristen are now YW presidents and Jill has been in the past, I want to tell them to count their blessings when they plan girl’s camp. In Santa Maria we would have about 125 girls go to stake camp. The camp we saw today had 6,000 YW... plus their YW leaders, plus about 350 priesthood leaders. It was a serene, peaceful place to be. It was so beautiful. It just felt well organized. There were hundreds of tents in different areas. The food was brought in already prepared (catered). The Church bought the property about four years ago. There is a tall cement wall built all around it. I forget how many acres (100’s) that it is. One man of the priesthood assigned there saw my name and said he had a missionary companion from Las Vegas named Graff. I told him Dick had cousins in Las Vegas so it was probably a son/grandson of one of them. A tall blonde Gringo hurried over to shake our hands/hug us. She is 20 years old from Idaho, going to BYU Idaho. She is here for a year teaching English on a special program. She is the YW president in her ward and thrilled to be at camp with her young women. When the bishop gave her the calling she was still 19 and she told him that she just got her YW medallion 6 months earlier. I am totally amazed at the young people who come to a foreign country and do the things they do. I took the picture of a young woman, probably 12, swinging on an inner tube hanging from a tree. She was having such a good time and she looked and acted like Kourtney. She got a kick seeing the picture on my camera.

After stopping at Pollo Campero (Guatemalan version of Kentucky Fried Chicken) for lunch we went back to the office and spent a couple of hours finishing up the day’s work. Tilleys came over this evening and brought their dominoes and we ate pumpkin crisp.
There are so many young leaders in this country. We were talking to René Oliva today. He is our boss’s boss and responsible for the welfare programs as a church employee. He was called to be a stake president when he was 29 and served for 9 years. When he was 38 they moved their family to Honduras for 3 years when he was called to be mission president. He was released in 2001. His son has been called to serve his mission in New York City South. They will be leaving in two weeks to take him to the MTC in Provo. He is a cardiologist but forced into early retirement by heart problems. Very ironic.

29 November 2008…..Saturday
The apartment got cleaned and the laundry got done and we were off to Hyper Paiz (Super Walmart) with Tilleys. I bought two cardigan sweaters, a black and a beige. They are heavier and warmer than anything else I have. Don’t need them today as it is much warmer than it has been the last couple of weeks. I won’t need them next week because we will be in Belize from December 4 through the 9th. It is warm there. I also got two lightweight pullover tops…one orange and one olive green. They will add some variety to my mostly blue wardrobe. We got Dick a sweatshirt and a hat for the fishing trip on Monday. We bought two Christmas table runners and a few other Christmas items. I guess it is time to get into the spirit of things. Part of me misses all my Santas, nativity sets, and my tree with my special ornaments. Most of me is thrilled that I won’t have to put it all away this year.
On the way home we passed by the Pop’s (ice cream store) that is our most familiar landmark for finding our way when we have been lost. To honor the fact that we weren’t lost, we stopped for a treat. That meant a milkshake for me. We also saw a Chili’s restaurant today.

30 November 30…..Sunday
We left with Tilleys this morning at 7 am, on our way to find the Villa Nueva Stake center. This is the first time that we have gone south from our apartment since being in Guatemala. We crossed Las Americas Blvd., headed south, and saw typical sights for this country…..narrow streets with small, old businesses along the side. The next block would be nicely paved four lane roads and a new McDonalds, Cemaco department store, Pizza Hut, etc. There is so much of the old and the new in the same area. We found the church without a problem, thanks to a great map drawn by a young man that works in the garage at the office. The chapel is very fortified behind wrought iron and razor wire, as are most of the chapels we have seen in Guatemala. It is a large, beautiful building. We were there by 7:30 am and meetings for the El Frutal First Ward started at 8 am. The wrought iron gates were locked and no cars were parked in the lot. We drove around to the back where there was another gate. After about two minutes Jim said he wasn’t comfortable in that area, so we drove around and waited in the front. A young couple with a one year old arrived on a motorcycle. An older gentleman walked. At ten till eight a car came with a family and he opened the gate….the bishop. More people began arriving and Church started on time and even had a great pianist. I love to sing with a piano. All the hymns were Christmas carols. After the sacrament a lot of people walked in. The chapel was packed, mostly young families with a lot of babies and little children. I’m sure Dick and I were the oldest people there. We feel very tall in Guatemala, too. There were over 60 people in the Gospel Doctrine Class.
The stake PEF specialists are a married couple, Hermano and Hermana Moran. They are very new to their calling so we were able to provide them with a lot of information. We love meeting all of these special people. Once again we were able to arrive safely home without becoming lost. As Tilleys were doing their security check they were told that on one side of the chapel are the police and the other direction are the narcotics dealers. Jim is a retired DEA agent so I am grateful for his promptings to move to the safer area while we waited for the gate to be opened.
This coming week will be busy. Tomorrow Dick and a group of missionaries, along with Elder Clarke, are driving to the Pacific Ocean and going out on boats to fish. It didn’t sound exciting to me but it was a no brainer decision for me to stay home when we found out it would be $350 for the day. The other thing happening in the coming week is that Thursday the 4th of December, Tilleys and we are going to Belize. We will be back on the 9th. They will be doing security checks on the church buildings in Belize and we will be doing a PEF fireside on Sunday and meeting with others about getting PEF fully established there. We are taking the PEF flyers and information to them that I translated into English when we first came to Guatemala. Belize speaks English and they like the American dollar. It is very unlikely that I will be sending out my journal till later next week when we return home.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Week of November 17th to Nov 23rd 2008

17 November 2008…..Monday
Time passes so quickly. Today would have been Bailey’s 13th birthday. We had her for only four days, but she has affected our lives forever.
I took the laptop to work today because we had not had internet since Saturday afternoon. I was able to send last week’s journal entry to the kids. I had two computers going for awhile, but it was a very busy workday. We had a new missionary couple come to the office, Elder and Sister Brown. They are headed a few hours away for their assignment of teaching English at a medical school. As we talked with them the small world connections started forming. He had served a mission in Central America and knew Elder King. They are from Prescott, AZ and Dick found out that he had been a counselor to Garth Hansen, who had been Dick’s companion in the mission field. Dick saw Garth last year after they moved to Springville, UT. The Browns had been neighbors to another missionary’s cousin. Yes, it is a small world! The Tilley’s came into our office at lunch time and Bawden’s and we ended up going with them to Wendy’s for lunch. The hamburger and fries tasted pretty good…..and the chocolate frosty, too. Then it was back to the office to work on all the stuff on our desks.
When we got home Tilley’s door was open and they invited us to come over for dinner…..meat loaf. We laughed because that has always been Dick’s birthday and Father’s Day dinner. As we finished the meal Sister Jones and Sister Rowley walked by, climbing the stairs to their apartment. Tilleys invited them in and we cleared off the dirty dishes and they sat down and ate. We want to be just like Rexene and Jim when we grow up.
Family Home Evening was at the Kings on the fifth floor. There was a huge group tonight. We had a great lesson based on President Monson’s conference address, “Finding Joy in the Journey.” Life is good and even when we struggle there is much joy to be found. Then we had a “game.” Each of us had to stand and tell about our companion. The winner would be the person who kept their discourse closest to one minute. Mine was 55 seconds. Dick’s was 90 seconds. Those who hit 90 seconds were stopped. Anyway, it was not like a typical game and we learned more about one another. Plus, we each enjoyed hearing our spouse (companion) tell good things about us.

18 November 2008…..Tuesday
I finally got an answer from my last participant in Belize. I talked to her husband again. She had a baby girl this month. I will take a gift when we travel to Belize in a few weeks and hope I get to meet her. At 10 am we went in the conference room with Reynaldo, Claudia, Hermana Saenz, and another sister who I think will probably replace Hermana Saenz as Call Center director. We did a video conference call with the call center directors in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and El Salvador. Pretty interesting to see everyone on the screen. At the conclusion Claudia asked me to say the prayer. My Spanish prayers are pretty basic. I don’t know enough to pray more than a couple of minutes which is long enough anyway. Most of that time is taken up with pauses as I try to think of the right words and conjugation.
At noon we walked down the street to the Chinese restaurant for the BMW in Guatemala luncheon. That stands for Beautiful Mormon Women. It was our first luncheon and was organized by Sister Kerns who will be heading back to the states in two weeks when she and her husband have completed their 2 year mission. There were 20 of us there, all American, most of us missionaries, but some the wives of mission presidents and area authorities for the Church, and others who are here because their husbands are employed by the Church or for other companies down here. We will be meeting for lunch the third Tuesday of every month. For us missionaries who spend 24/7 with our spouses it felt different, going out to eat without them. Dick and Jim went out to lunch.
This is the land of Eternal Spring, but this is a pretty cold spring to me. I need to buy some warmer clothes. I put on my sweat suit when we got home and it feels so good.

19 November 2008…..Wednesday

I am still cold. It was 52 degrees when we got up and the high today, briefly, was 69 degrees. Plus, the wind was blowing about 30 mph…..just like Lancaster on a normal day. I am sitting at the computer in sweats with a fleece throw around me. This morning I saw something I haven’t seen before while on the way to the office. The volcano was clear as could be. No matter how clear the sky, the volcano has always been shrouded in clouds since we arrived here in September.
Mid-morning we went upstairs to Tilleys office and talked about our plans for our trip to Belize in two weeks. We bought empanadas from the red car for lunch. My computer mouse died and I had to wait about 45 minutes for a guy from the tech

20 November 2008…..Thursday
Today has been worrisome for me. Today Jill had the surgery she has hoped for. After losing 160+ pounds since June 2007 she has wanted surgery to remove all the loose skin. That happened today. She was in surgery about 9 hours. She has worked so hard and has overcome the need for medicine for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. Dick just talked to Robert and Jill is in recovery now and the doctor said everything went well. The other thing I worry about…..she will go home tonight. Not being there to help her has left me with emotions trying to spill out.
At the office this morning Dick called the brother who we most want to meet while we are in Belize. He was one of the early participants with PEF. He will get at least one district fireside organized for us while we are there. He now works for the Church in the Facilities Management group which means he is the main contact that the Tilleys need for getting around to the various chapels for their security check. We look forward to the experience.
We left at 10:15 am with the Bawdens to go to the temple. The session was full. Five buses came from Honduras the day before with temple attenders. Such faithful people. The room probably holds 25-30 and there are two ordinance rooms. Dick and I were witness couple again. I found that I did a better job of understanding Spanish this time. We had things to do at the office so we didn’t go out to lunch. I worked on a flyer for the Belize fireside that Claudia will refine and then we will email it to Belize.
When we got home I lay on the bed and actually slept a little, trying to get rid of a headache. I baked my first cake in Guatemala. The proof will be tomorrow when we eat it for a surprise party for Rexene’s birthday. Instead of my candy bar cake being 4 layers, I baked it in the only cake pan I have…..a 9x13. I will top it tomorrow with the chocolate/almond filling and then put whipped cream on each piece as I serve it.

21 November 2008…..Friday
What a great day! We were busy at the office. Then we were called into the conference room and there we had birthday cake for Dick and three others who had birthdays in November. Tilleys were going to go see the relief map of Guatemala with Manolo, a stake president who is over Facilities Management for the area of Central America. We went along. It is extraordinary. Guatemala is the only country in the world that has a relief map. It probably covers about half an acre but it looked huge. It is in a lovely, quiet park and they charge for us to get in. Admission every place is always cheaper for the Guatemalans than for us foreigners. The map helps put everything into perspective. The northeast area is flat, all the way to Belize and the Caribbean. The west is very mountainous until it flattens out and drops down to the Pacific and there are many volcanoes in the country. There is stairs at either end of the map to climb and look down on the map. I have carried my camera everywhere since we got here, but in my effort to not have such a heavy purse, I have left it home this week. Now I wish that I had it with me
On the way back we went to Zurich Chocolateria for lunch. Dick and I had a delicious quiche and I had chocolate milk to drink….scrumptious. (Jill and Robert says I write about food…..a lot…..they are right.) Back at the office we got some things done. It was cold in the office today. I enjoyed my little heater and I am very glad I brought it home to use.
We rode with Bawdens to Estancia for dinner. We were there to surprise Rexene for her birthday dinner. Even the men were cold in the restaurant. I never expected to be this cold in Central America. I need some warmer clothes. Dick and I both had Milanese. He had the kind I make and I had Milanese Napolitano like Jeff used to talk of having in Argentina. It was topped with marinara sauce and Mozzarella cheese. It was very good. We all came back here for birthday cake. Today was also Matthew’s 5th birthday.
After everyone left we had a Skype call from Jill. She was trying hard to put on a good show for Mom and Dad but I know she was in a lot of pain and discomfort. She has a long road ahead of her.

22 November 2008…..Saturday
My favorite kind of day…a stay at home day. I did laundry….6 loads in our small washer and dryer. I cleaned. I cooked. I put black beans in the crock pot and cooked them for a 6 hours with hamburger and assorted seasonings. We ate them like a soup and we had avocado and flour tortillas with cheese. I made my hot chocolate mix to share with our friends and co-workers in the coming weeks. The little space heater is going now to take the chill off the apartment. I never thought we would need a heater in Guatemala but if feels so good.

23 November 2008…..Sunday

We left the apartment this morning after 8 am with Tilleys and went to Lomas del Norte Ward, Atlántico Stake. We had been there in September for our first meeting with a stake specialist. One of the young sister missionaries there was Tilley’s neighbor when they lived in Washington state and they wanted to take some holiday things to her. Relief Society and Priesthood meetings were first. After that we met the specialist, Evelin Vasquez and her boyfriend in the hallway and found out she has been released from her calling. When they get a new specialist we will take another trip to their stake. After partaking of the sacrament we left because we had an appointment at noon at the Montufar building with the specialist from Villa Hermosa Stake.
Brother Cerrate was waiting for us when we arrived along with the high councilor over the young single adults and the high councilor over the PEF. Wow! These are organized brethren and the work is in good hands. They have 10 units in their stake and five of the bishops and the stake president and one of his councilors have not completed their education. They are all under 30 years of age and qualify for the Fund. We look for good things in Villa Hermosa Stake.
I heated my left over bean soup and mashed them up with some good old bacon grease into refried beans. We are taking them next door when we have dinner with the Tilleys…..the world´s most perfect neighbors!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Week of November 10th to Nov 16th 2008

10 November 2008…..Monday
Another day at the office. For someone who has spent almost 48 years at home, this is an adjustment for me, to get up, get ready, and leave every day. We had a lot of things to do today. We didn’t finish all of it but we will work on it tomorrow. I got the 19 local specialists emailed for their monthly report. I got a great email from one of the fund participants in Belize. When Dick hands me something to type up I am always grateful when it is in English. When it is in Spanish I struggle more, but I have spell check for the Spanish typing, and for that I am grateful.
Family Home Evening was at the Johnson’s tonight. He is a lawyer, here on assignment with the company he works for to do work for the Church. They live half a block away in a beautiful apartment on the 12th floor. They have a fantastic view of the city. Our lesson was on preparedness and we assembled 72 hour emergency kits for each of us. We put all the contents in Mylar bags and then sealed them. The twelve missionaries in our apartment building walked together…..safety in numbers…..we hope.

11 November 2008…..Tuesday

Now that we are in the dry season and haven’t had any rain for a couple of weeks, the Americans are saying how dry they feel. It still isn’t as dry as the Antelope Valley. On the other hand, I never felt the humidity was bad during the rainy season. My hair had the droops but I was never uncomfortable with the humidity.
We spent time at the office with Tilleys, working on plans for a trip to Belize the first part of December. We bought a chocolate house from one of the men at the office. His wife makes them. It looks like a traditional gingerbread house but is made totally of chocolate. That works for me. It was Q70 (less than $10). It makes a darling Christmas decoration and it will be fun to eat afterwards.
This evening we met at the Taylor’s apartment with the rest of the group about doing service for the Lion’s Club. We are planning on making fleece blankets for about 50 children. There were other ideas presented as to what we might do and some of the young women and Relief Society sisters are willing to make some of the quilts.
Last Saturday a new missionary arrived. She is Sister Thibault from Maryland. She is the mental health specialist for Central America. She was widowed a few years ago and this is her second mission. She lives in the same apartment building as some of the other single sisters. We are getting another missionary couple later tonight, Elder and Sister Blackburn from Hawaii. They will be the Central America Area auditors and will replace the Kerns who are going home in a couple of weeks. They will move into our building. That will make 7 out of the 15 apartments in our building to be occupied by Mormon missionaries.

12 November 2008…..Wednesday
The weather has been a little warmer and very pleasant. There is grayness to the sky that comes from burning sugar cane fields many, many miles away. We bought lunch today from the red car. This time she had tacos. They were stuffed with beef and cabbage and then fried. Very greasy. Of course, we like grease. Tilley’s emailed us this afternoon and said they were going to PriceSmart and would we like to go. So, we left the office at 3:15 and went with them. First we stopped at a store called La Puerta del Sol. They told us they have American products but they’re not cheap. We bought wonderful black licorice. I finally found two items I have looked for since we came: marshmallow cream so I can make fudge and poppy seeds so I can make Mother’s poppy seed bread. I bought sliced almonds and was thrilled to get two one pound bags so I can make my almond crunch. Then we went to PriceSmart. I found sliced almonds that Costco never had back home. The pound bag was one third the price of the one pound size I bought at the other store.
We didn’t stop at the office to get our car. We will just ride to work with Tilleys tomorrow. When we were putting groceries away Rexene invited us over for dinner. She did some spicy chicken wings and I collected various things I had and we enjoyed a pleasant dinner. Time now to study Spanish.
I discovered a new sound today. In the underground parking garage at PriceSmart there are “guards” directing the vehicles. They have a whistle in their mouth and they blow it almost constantly. I think it must be related to all the horn honking here. They all like noise. Anyway, it sounded like giving all the grandsons a whistle and letting them blow to their hearts content.

13 November 2008…..Thursday
We rode to the office with Tilleys. We got some basic things done and at 10:15 am we got in their car again and drove to the temple. This time I went through the veil in Spanish with the help of a card to read. It was a wonderful feeling. I love the peace I feel while I am there. It breaks my heart to know that demonstrations and picketing have gone on at the Los Angeles Temple. Sandi Stratton emailed and said there was a demonstration at the San Diego Temple. They chose to do it last Sunday, thinking they would disturb everyone arriving for services. Must have been a great shock for anti-Mormons to discover that we do not conduct any meetings at our temples on Sunday and therefore no one was there.
After the temple we went to Pizza Hut and then back to the office. We picked up our car and went to Paiz and did grocery shopping. After we got home we met the new missionary couple that arrived Tuesday night. They and Tilleys came to our apartment and visited. They are Bill and Adele Blackburn from Hawaii. We all hit it off great with them. He served a mission in ARGENTINA in the early sixties. He named Tandil as one of the places he served and Dick had been branch president there in 1959. They got home four months ago from serving a mission in Mexico City with PEF, so we have to pick their brain and find out the things they were doing with the Fund. As we talked, Rexene and Adele discovered they both graduated from Provo High, several years apart, and had been in the same stake. Elder Blackburn grew up in Porterville. He was surprised that we knew where that was. He didn’t know the Badders but I would bet they know people in common. It just seems that we have a lot of common connections. We think they will be an enjoyable addition to our special group.
Last night Dick talked to Dana and tonight he talked to Dennis on Skype. We think Skype is a great find and we love the connection with our family.

14 November 2008…..Friday

All the work at the office continues to move forward. I walked the steps to the fourth floor twice to talk to Tilleys so we could coordinate our Sunday meetings with both of our callings. I would like to say I walked for the exercise, but the elevator was being serviced. Actually, I really enjoy walking. Sitting at the desk from 7:30 till 3:30 most days is hard on the body. Almost everyone around us leaves the office at lunch time but we eat a sandwich at our desk. I bought “cup of noodles” and there is hot water available, so I enjoy that occasionally.
We slid the two beds together. We have been sleeping in a double bed size (matrimonial bed) and we are pretty crowded, so now we have it combined with the semi-matrimonial bed so we have a larger than king size bed. We will try that for awhile and see how it works for us.
I discovered that I didn’t have the pie crust recipe that I wanted to use tomorrow so I emailed all the girls in the family to see if they had it, plus my good friend Margaret in Atlanta who gave me the recipe.

15 November 2008…..Saturday

This really was a preparation day. I work much slower than I used to so I am grateful for a small apartment. I got it cleaned and laundry done. Our stackable washer/dryer doesn’t do very big loads but I am so grateful for the convenience of having it in our apartment. We talked with and saw Alison’s family on Skype. Dick talked with Jeff today and Mark called so we saw his family. Dick called Santa Maria and talked to Jon. We are still enjoying the fact that we can have conversations on the phone or the computer through Skype.

No one in the family had the recipe I wanted for pie crust and there was no reply from Margaret. Dick got on Skype information and came up with Thompson’s phone number in Georgia and called Margaret. It was so good to hear her voice, and she gave me her wonderful recipe again. Then I went in the kitchen and made lemon pies for Dick’s birthday. At 7 pm the missionaries in our apartment building joined us for pie and we sang “Happy Birthday” to Dick.

Elder and Sister King

Elder and Sister Taylor

Elder and Sister Tilley

Sister Jones and Sister Rowley

They all enjoyed the pie. There wasn’t even so much as a crumb left on their plates. They talked about how flaky the crust was. Thanks to Margaret and a recipe that doesn’t have to be rolled out, just pressed into the pan. For future reference and for the readers of the blog wondering about it…….here it is:
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup oil
Mix together and it will be a gloppy mess. Then add
1/3 cup cold water and stir. It will change in appearance and form a ball. Divide in two. Press into two pie tins. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes, (unless you are in Guatemala…then you had better lower your oven and readjust your time)

As we were finishing the pie we heard loud noises. My first thought was, is that gunshots? My next thought was, is there a revolution going on? It was so loud that the car alarms were going off. Those who have been here longer had a clue. So we all went up on the roof and watched the fireworks explode into the sky. It was just like being at Jet Hawk stadium in Lancaster on the 4th of July. We think it must all have been part of lighting the huge Christmas tree at the Obelisk.
Before everyone came for dessert, Dick and Jim gave me a blessing. I have had some minor health issues going on that may just be the results of getting older and age can’t be cured.

16 November 2008…..Sunday

Today is Dick’s 72nd birthday….and to think that he was 22 when we had our first date. We left with Tilleys at 7am this morning and met a brother at the office who guided us to Central Stake. He happened to be the stake patriarch. Since we had plenty of time, we followed him in is little red Volkswagen beetle around some beautiful old buildings and he would call Dick’s cell phone and point out places of interest. You could tell he was proud of his beautiful city….old intermingled with new. We attended all the meetings in Centro Ward and then Dick met with the stake specialist. This was a big ward and very much a family ward with a lot of children. As I sat in Relief Society with a sweet, “older” sister ( like me) who literally took me with her and sat with me, I listened to someone reading out of the manual. Even with my Spanish manual in front of me I could hardly follow along, she talked so fast. I sat there thinking that I will never be able to understand and speak Spanish.
I tried to have an hour nap this afternoon but it turned into a quiet time of meditation and prayer. At 2:30 pm we drove to the Montufa building to meet the specialist from Nimanjuyu Stake so she could guide us to her stake center for a PEF class she was teaching. It’s a good thing we had someone to follow as I doubt we could have found it on our own. She is one smart woman. She went to 3 years of college here, then she got a Fulbright Scholarship and went to school in Vermont for 2 years. For the last 15 years she has worked for Roche Pharmaceuticals here in Guatemala City. She has five ward specialists working with her in PEF. She drew a map for us to come home because we wanted to leave by 4:30 to allow time to travel and get lost and be home before dark. We missed the turn at 18th. No surprise. We only saw 2 street signs…one for 50th and one for 34th. She had said not to worry that if we missed a turn, as long as we went straight we would get back to where she met us. It did work and we ended up on the same street we had been on this morning and Dick knew how to get back home. “You can’t get there from here” is my phrase for traveling here. We could see the condos and high rise in our neighborhood when we were traveling, but there is no street coming across the area. Thus, we had to go north and then back south. We were back home in 30 minutes.
Today we have had a family fast for Jill who is having surgery on Thursday. We pray that she feels the power of fasting and prayer from her loved ones to bring blessings upon her body to heal and upon the doctors and those who will care for her. She feels like she is in good hands and that is important. She has lost 160+ pounds and now she will have excess skin removed from many areas of her body to complete this project she started in June of 2007. She has shown such determination and commitment to the process and in doing so has eliminated the need for all meds for cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. We are very proud of her but we worry about this 9 hour surgery and going home the same day.
We broke our fast with avocado sandwiches and the last two pieces of lemon pie. Tilleys called and suggested a game of dominoes for Dick’s birthday so they are coming over now. The internet is not working for any of us in the apartments. I will take my laptop to the office tomorrow and send my journal.