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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, October 12, 2008

Week of October 6th- 12th, 2008

6 October 2008…..Monday

Soon after we got to the office this morning we had a call from the internet company that they wanted to install a different router. We came back home just before 9 am and the doorbell rang soon after. Anyway, we have two small boxes by our computer and the second one was for wireless. The other cord is still here and he said we could use it to hook up a second computer. I think it might come in handy because Marilyn Bawden and Rexene Tilley both need help with Shutterfly. They could come here and we could work on it together.
When we need Guatemalan cash (Q’s) the best way to do that is to write a check to one of three men in the office. They then write a local check to us and we take it to the bank to cash it. They make a small percentage of it and it is a major help for us. We went to the drive up teller before coming home this afternoon (us and about twenty other cars). We put the check and a certified copy of Dick’s passport into the vacuum tube, and then wait for our money to come back. We actually were able to find our way back to the apartment without any hassle and without going to the Boulevard and driving till we could make a left turn so we could double back. It is the most inconvenient road system I have ever seen. We had a lot of sun today, and as much as I love rain, I love the blue skies. After sixteen years in the Antelope Valley I really do love sun and blue skies. Maybe it’s because I have to venture out every day.

7 October 2008…..Tuesday

Things were progressing along at the office when I looked at Dick and could tell he wasn’t feeling well. It was shortly after lunch time and the office was so quiet. I think everyone had left for lunch except us. We usually bring sandwiches and eat at our desks. There are about 18 here on the first floor, plus the volunteers who run the PEF Call Center, and that adds another 10-12. Anyway, Dick had a knot in his stomach that I could feel. We went back to the apartment before 2 pm. He laid on the couch and slept. I had a pleasant afternoon, other than worrying about him. It started to thunder and rain so I opened the drapes. I ate some dark chocolate and updated my house plans file on the computer. It has been over a year since I spent any time checking out house plans and I totally enjoyed myself.
The cockroaches are still in residence since I have seen one plus other evidences in the last few days. Nancy, the apartment manager, came in with the pros and their clipboards. I will be glad to have them come in and get it professionally done.
The Tilleys invited all the senior missionaries in our apartment building to dinner. She had the makings of taco salad and we each brought things to fill in. She even deep fried tortilla shells. I did the black beans, adding bacon grease and mashing them into Guatemalan refried beans. I don’t think I will ever want my refried beans made out of pinto beans again. The Guatemalans have it right by using black beans. I took some Jack cheese, ranch dressing, and grapes. I drank a juice that Dean Bawden has been promoting me to try….tamarind juice. I really like it.
I tried to watch the last few minutes of the presidential debate but gave up on it. I am glad to be far away from the daily onslaught of constant political ads.

8 October 2008…..Wednesday

Dick kept busy today. He is helping Reynaldo review the dozen or so applications for exemptions. They are people over the age of 30 who wish to apply to use the fund. One is a 33 year old stake president who is trying to upgrade his employment. Dick has made a number of phone calls. He tries to talk to the applicant and tell them how they can change the apps and increase their chances of being approved. It is all done online and so it is fairly easy for them to make the necessary changes. Next Monday at our Area Committee Meeting each will be discussed. Those that are approved will be forwarded on to SLC.
We had a good lunch of empanadas, rice, grated carrots and tortillas here at our desk. After leaving the office we stopped at Paiz and did some grocery shopping. We have had rain this afternoon, but luckily we were able to get in and out of the store during some breaks in the weather.

9 October 2008…..Thursday

Today was a wonderful day. This morning one of the computer guys downloaded a Java program for me and then we got Family Search Indexing installed. I actually indexed a few names today from the 1920 California census for Los Angeles County. When things are a little slow for me at the office that will give me something productive to do. From August 31, 2007 till May 31, 2008 I did over 10,000 names from an assortment of states and years.
At 10:15 am we left the office with the Tilleys. The Bawdens and Taylors left together. We all went to the Temple for the 11 am session. Such a lovely experience. The temple is small, especially for those of us who attend the Los Angeles Temple. There were ten in the session…8 of us missionaries. One sister had come by bus from Honduras. The session was in English since all but one of us spoke English. I just couldn’t stop thinking about what a blessing this temple is for the Guatemalan people. It is a place of peace and sanctuary. There are several senior missionaries who are called from the states to serve in the temple, but the others are local Guatemalans. The officiator and his wife for our session are from Utah. He is 82 and they are serving as temple missionaries. When we left the Temple there was a lovely bride and groom having their picture taken out in front…..just like we see at any of the temples back home. Truly, President Hinckley was inspired when he announced that they would be building small temples around the world, taking the temple to the people. They may lack in size but the beauty is still there. There are great sacrifices being made by thousands of people every year to come to the temple in Guatemala from Honduras and El Salvador. Costa Rica has a temple, Panama has a new temple. The El Salvador Temple has begun construction. Honduras has announced a temple and Guatemala is about to start another temple in Quetzaltenango. It is amazing to see what the tithing funds of the Church can do. Over 365 Church buildings are constructed every year….more than one every day…..most being chapels for Sunday meetings.
We walked across the street to a small restaurant for lunch. Dick and I shared a plate of chicken, rice, mixed vegetables, cup of very hot soup and corn tortillas. I had a local drink called Jamaica, made of the Hibiscus flower. It tasted very much like a berry juice. The others went back to the office but the Tilleys and we played hooky. We stopped at the Distribution Center right next to the restaurant and we finally got our Joseph Smith manuals in Español (they were free) and a copy of the October “Liahona” so we could read together in Spanish. We also bought a small picture of the Guatemala Temple. The distribution center is small but has all the essentials for the members here. Then we went to a store about a mile away that the Tilleys had discovered last week. The big draw…..diet, caffeine free, Coke. Dick would have preferred Pepsi but this find was almost as good for him. It was a great little store with unexpected things, like Stagg Chili and Chef Boyardee Ravioli. Then we went to a big, new Price Smart and it really did look like Costco. It is quite away out of the city on the road going to El Salvador. One thing I have noticed is the Christmas items in all the stores ever since we arrived in September. I found a pair of green lightweight sweat pants and jacket. Now I have another option for evening time here in the apartment. We had some rain to travel in but when we got close to home it was dry, until we turned on to our street. Then the heavens opened and it poured.

10 October 2008…..Friday

The bug sprayers came today while we were at the office and pulled out the appliances and sprayed for cockroaches. They sprayed the rest of the apartment, too. Suddenly I am more comfortable in the kitchen without feeling like I am going to encounter another cockroach in my dishwasher.
Today was very busy and during slow times I could index a few names from the census records. I love doing it. I could do it full time. We need to email the twenty stake specialists in the Guatemala City area about their completed activities for September and their plans for October. Dick drafted the email in Spanish, then I will begin Monday with getting it sent to each specialist. It will not be mass mailed, but individually. By late afternoon I was really tired. The brain just doesn’t work as well at the end of the day.
After dinner the Tilleys came over with a loaf of hot homemade bread and their dominoes. I pulled out some dessert and we played Mexican Train and Chicken Foot. We had a wonderful visit with them. The association we have with our friends here is a great blessing to us.

11 October 2008…..Saturday

Today is our Preparation Day which translates into cleaning/laundry /errand day. I enjoyed my breakfast of homemade bread, toasted, and hot chocolate….just like when I was a girl getting ready for Seminary. Tilleys called and invited us to go to Antigua with them and Taylors. We went to the cleaners and picked up Dick’s clean white shirts and dropped off his dirty ones. At 11 am we left for our day trip. Taylors drove their car because they had to be back to go to the opera tonight. We rode with Tilleys. It took an hour to get there because we were diverted due to road crews cleaning up an area that had been hit with mudslides earlier this week. Antigua was the former capital of Guatemala. It was destroyed in an earthquake in 1773 and so the capital was moved to Guatemala City. All the guide books or websites we have read about Guatemala says that Antigua is a must see. We drove over cobblestone streets and found a place to park the cars. Then we walked a few blocks to one of the market places. There were many stalls in a beautiful area enclosed with walls and guards nearby. The textiles were beautiful. I am determined to go back someday and buy one of the beautiful aprons. It is far too lovely to wear when cooking. But, for today, we just walked on, looking at all they had to offer. It was an area for tourists. Then we went to another market place, just across the street. This was an area of open stalls, tons of vegetables and fruits. We did buy a pineapple for Q5…..less than a dollar. We also bought a big umbrella. Everyone here uses big ones because the normal size just doesn’t handle the heavy duty rain. It was a little warm in this open air area. There was an assortment of people. Many of them were indigenous. I am tall amongst these people. There are lots of babies and young children. Some are in large scarves on the mother’s back. Many women carried their goods on their heads which continues to mystify me as they defy the law of gravity. As we walked back to the cars we were jostled a little by the crowd and thought nothing of it. It was later that Rexene discovered a huge slit in the side of her purse. Thankfully, nothing was missing, but obviously there were some pickpockets working on us Americanos. Rexene said they would use her purse for the next security training they do.
We left about 2 pm. The drive back to Guatemala City was much quicker coming back. I have been trying to find an electric frying pan for a few weeks. Monday night we are hosting FHE and I want to make my buttermilk scones and honey butter. I much prefer an electric frying pan where I can control the temperature. We stopped at one of the malls and went into a department store, Cemaco. It was much better than the department store we shopped at a few weeks ago. I found an 11” Presto electric frying pan. It is the perfect size for us here. I also found a large covered plastic container that is big enough to hold my dough overnight in the refrigerator. I bought a 9x13 baking pan, loaf pans and a muffin tin. I bought a red/gold table runner. Dick found a shower head and I look forward to my shower, using a shiny new shower head. Somehow it will make me feel like the water coming out of it is cleaner. I was able to cross off a number of things that have been on my shopping list for the last month. We ate an early dinner at a Chinese restaurant around the corner from the office. It was a good meal and we enjoyed it. We were home before dark which comes about 6 pm. A very good day!

12 October 2008…..Sunday

Today is Fast Sunday and we, with many others, fasted for the passage of Proposition 8 in California. The Catholics, Fundamentals and Mormons are joined together in working to promote marriage between a man and a woman, the way God proclaimed it to be.
We left an 8 am with Tilleys to go to Rama La Sabana in Palmita Stake to attend Sacrament Meeting. We tried to use the directions given us, but again it was impossible. We called Reynaldo who works at the office. He lives a short distance away and he came and we followed him to the chapel. It is a small branch. There were 58 in attendance. They meet in a rented home that has big enough rooms to seat the members of the branch, plus an area for Primary. I was very impressed with the young men and young women. Four of the YW and five of the YM bore their testimony. This is the poorest area of the places we have been. The parking lot is behind an iron gate (as all the Church property is in this country). There were only two cars there besides us. All members live within a 15 minute walk. The Church has brought property for a small chapel but that will be a few years off until they are more active participants in tithing. I walked to the podium and bore my testimony. Some sweet people told me afterwards that my Spanish was very good. They were just being kind. I know what I want to say but the right word is bouncing around in my head with other words. Then trying to conjugate the verbs is my biggest challenge and I haven’t even got into the tenses yet. I have a long way to go.
After the meeting we met with the branch president, a very good man. Dick talked to him about young people in the branch who would be able to use the PEF. One young man talked to us in the hallway. He is 24 and is leaving in two weeks as a missionary to Peru. He was baptized three years ago. The Tilleys did a security check with the branch president. They have had several break-ins in recent months. It is a beautiful setting and it must have once been a beautiful home and garden area.
Then we left for Paraiso I Ward in La Laguna Stake. We had a map drawn by President Lucas, the stake president who works down the hall from us at the Area Office. It looked like such a direct shot and he said it was easy. With Jim driving and Dick navigating, we discovered it was not easy. We finally went back to an area we knew and called him and he sent someone to come get us, Lenora. It’s a good thing he did. I don’t think we would have ever found it. His familiar instructions about the Shell station and McDonalds were good but there were several such landmarks. The market was going on and the traffic was crawling for a number of blocks. Then we made a right turn and another right and we saw the chapel, sitting behind the familiar security wall. We were able to meet with Sister Amaya, the stake specialist. Once again, I understand little of what is being said, but her spirit shined through. The area we were in was zone 18, and is the most dangerous area of Guatemala City. The Tilley’s did their security check while we were with Sister Amaya. The missionaries told them there was someone killed in the street this week. Of the four missionaries, two were Gringos. They said they have seen a number of dead bodies in the street since serving in that area…..most is drug or gang related. One of the missionaries was from Idaho and the other from Orange, CA, Elder Anderson. He said he knew some kids from Mission Viejo. I asked if he knew Kaitlin Graff, but he didn’t. I told him that was too bad because she is beautiful! He leaves for home very soon.
Then we followed Lenora to the stake center. While Tilleys did their security check of the building, Lenora introduced us to a young man who is a ward PEF specialist. He is a returned missionary, using the PEF fund and studying to be an engineer. He will be a great success. I could just feel it as we talked to him. Our little black name tags are such a magnet. When we walk into a church building there are many handshakes from men and boys and hugs from the women and girls.
It is always a great relief to arrive back at the apartment and know the day has gone well. We definitely live in the safest area of this big city. We are surrounded by embassies. We always are very cautious and follow the rules. I just worry about these wonderful people we meet who live in difficult areas and in difficult circumstances.

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