It was hard to get going this morning after our busy weekend of travel. We kept busy at our desks until about noon. Then we went to the Taylors office down the hall. He is the area doctor. We sang to Elder Kerns and had birthday cake. They are going home in a few weeks. It was his 71st birthday. There is a gorgeous sky today and no clouds help the bus fumes to escape. This is a country of smells…..the bus fumes here in the city, the smell of smoke in the countryside from all the wood fires the people have for cooking, the smell of dampness and rain. The sounds are varied, too. Constant traffic here in the city, car alarms, horns…..the country side is quiet, but there is the constant honking. I think the Guatemalans have a love affair with their car horns. Our new sound is a trampoline and jumping, laughing, noisy teenagers. They were having a grand time last night when we went to bed. There are apartment buildings around us but a home is nestled right at the back of our building.
Tonight our Family Home Evening was at Sister Jones and Sister Rowley’s apartment. They live two floors above us. We had a great discussion on Elder Holland’s CES talk from September 7th entitled “Lessons from Liberty Jail.” He really relates the experiences the prophet had to us and our own trials and feeling alone. It is available on the CES website.
28 October 2008…..Tuesday
This month is hurrying on by. It has been windy….not Lancaster windy, but far more than breezy. Last night we thought we heard thunder but it was just noises of wind blowing at the surrounding construction areas for new condos. We were busy at the office. We had some squash that Elvis Gòmez brought in. He had left the peeling on, cut it in pieces about 2 to 3 inches, cooked it in water with brown sugar, cinnamon and pepper. It looked like a pot of soup. He served it cold. It was tasty. It is part of the traditional meal on November 1st….All Saints Day.
We have not received our absentee ballots. We can vote at the American Embassy if our ballot doesn´t come in time, but we need our passport. Nora, who is employed at the office and responsible for getting our visas and other necessary papers, keeps the passports locked up. She is gone till Thursday, so we can´t go vote till she gets back.
On the way home we stopped at Paiz and did our grocery shopping. I am doing better at deciphering food labels in Spanish. A couple of weeks ago Rexene and I bought what we thought was cornmeal. It turned out to be corn flour. I bought four cans of whole cranberry sauce a month ago. I´m glad I did because there are no cans on the shelf now and they don´t ever have fresh cranberries. The yams I saw today in the produce section are not something I feel like using. Maybe as Thanksgiving gets closer the yams will look better, or maybe I will just get used to them.
29 October 2008…..Wednesday
The land of eternal spring is experiencing chilly weather. Today Marilyn brought in a little space heater to put under her desk. I haven’t been that cold but it is definitely a change. We brought the Tilleys home from the office today. They left their car at the office garage for someone to use for the next week as they are flying to Honduras early in the morning.
Elder Clarke is in Nicaragua. Today he had an appointment with Daniel Ortega…..yes, the president of Nicaragua. It will be interesting to hear about it when he comes back.
This evening our doorbell rang. When I answered it there was no one there, but there was a bowl of wrapped candy with a tangerine. A black marker had been used to paint a face on the tangerine and it looked like a jack-o-lantern. There was one sitting by the Tilleys door, too. Now we will have to figure out who is doing the treating.
30 October 2008…..Thursday
I worked all morning on a new form that we are developing to give Elder Clarke an update at a glance of PEF. We will do the report monthly. We have had contact with every Guatemala City specialist (there are 19) except two this month by phone or email. We have also visited with 4 different stakes here plus the 4 specialists and stakes while we were traveling in western Guatemala last weekend.
Dick got on the elevator today and Elder Clarke was there. He asked him about his visit with Daniel Ortega. He said it went very well. One of their main topics was abortion. Ortega is very much against it. So, a Central American dictator and an American Mormon general authority can agree about something. The meeting also opened the door for some humanitarian service from the church.
We wanted to go to the Embassy today to vote but Dick’s passport was not in the stack that Nora keeps under lock and key. She and others searched for a long time before finding out it was at the immigration office because they needed it when we bought the car.
We left the office after 2 pm today. We had to stop at the pharmacy, the cleaners, and the bank. After dinner I decided to make some pumpkin muffins for our fellow missionaries, for the apartment guard who is on duty tonight, plus the front desk security and the guys who repair and keep this whole apartment complex clean. They live in dinky closet sized rooms in the parking garage. I will take the remaining muffins to the office tomorrow. They turned out beautifully. Cooking here is a challenge for all of us. From the comments I have heard I think I have the best, most accurate oven. I decrease the temp 25 degrees and watch things carefully. I don’t know if it is the oven or the high altitude. Anyway, these are a success this time…..maybe next time they will flop. Dick is riding the elevator now, making deliveries.
31 October 2008…..Friday
Happy Halloween! My least favorite holiday of the year. I took pumpkin muffins to the office today. That is about the last time that I thought of today being Halloween. We left mid-morning and went to the bank so we would have some quetzals. Plus, we got a parking ticket last week at the job fair. We had parked on the street by a grassy area, no driveway, and we got a ticket. There was a round green sign with an E on it and a red slash hanging on a big door. We now know that sign means “no parking.” That was payable at the bank. Then we went to the American Embassy to vote because Dick’s passport was finally back in the office. It was a hassle, circling several blocks three times because of the one way streets. We finally found a parking garage. The elevator took us up to a building nearby and then we went out to the sidewalk and walked to the Embassy. We presented our passports at the enclosed guard area and were told the consular office was closed the last Friday of the month, so no voting. It seems that nothing is easy to do here, especially if it involves driving somewhere.
When we left the Embassy Dick made a right turn instead of a left and we headed out to Atlántico to see if we could find the stake center before we head out there for a PEF meeting tonight for their stake. We always have directions and instructions but that is the first time we actually drove right to the building. The plus is we know the way to get to that area.
We stopped at Paiz on the way home and everybody and his brother was there. I picked up some chicken to cook for “break the fast” on Sunday. By the time we got home my headache of the last few days had taken over. I laid down for awhile and then we had avocado sandwiches for dinner. We left at 6 pm for the PEF meeting. An hour later we were still creeping in traffic and the meeting had already started. We knew we would be stuck in the congestion a lot longer so we turned around when we finally found a left turn. We got home in 20 minutes. Like the traffic in L A, it depends on which direction you´re going. Next time we will leave 2 hours early instead of one. You just can´t tell what it will be like.
Jill forwarded an article from the Antelope Valley Press to us that had been sent to her by April Thompson, renter and caretaker of our home and a person on our list of “favorite people.” A sign she had in the yard for “Yes on Proposition 8” had been slashed. It made the local newspaper. We both got a little grab in our throat when we saw the front yard of our home. I think our California family and friend will be glad when the election is over.
1 November 2008…..Saturday
I was thinking last night that my journal entries for the week were pretty common and maybe boring. All that changed today. We left here at 7:30 am with Sister Rowley and Sister Jones and drove to the office to meet a few others. We parked our car in the parking garage and got in other cars. We rode with Kim and Carolyn Taylor and the sisters rode with President and Sister Baldwin of the Central Mission and also Sister Barney. We drove out to Santiago Sacatepéquez for the “Giant Kite Festival” that is held on All Saints Day (today).
When I say giant kites, that is exactly what it was…..huge kites….the biggest kites I have ever seen, all handmade of tissue paper and bamboo, and very colorful. The smaller ones are under 20 feet in diameter and our flown. The large ones are up to 50 feet in diameter and are for display only. We parked the cars along the narrow road and walked down the street to the cemetery where the kite flying was taking place. The street was lined with people selling food they were cooking over open fires or a variety of items they were selling…..clothes, toys, etc. Our cemeteries are places of reverence. This cemetery was a place of celebration. There was no flat ground and there were people all over. It was a hazard walking there but we did all right. There were ice cream vendors pushing their carts over the graves. There were people selling their wares, especially to the susceptible Americans. There are big cement or stuccoed structures where some of the bodies are placed. There were flowers and wreaths but many of those were trampled. Each time a kite would successfully be launched everyone ooohed and aaahed like we do with fireworks on the 4th of July. They would wait for the wind to pick up and then send the kite up. Some came crashing back down. They were light enough that no one seemed to get hurt. We bought a colorful tapestry.
Just before noon we started walking back to the car. There were a lot more people streaming through the area than when we came. Part of the group had walked on ahead. We waited for Taylors to buy something and then we followed them down the street. There was a guy walking back in forth of front of us and a small old woman who kept stopping in front of us. People were crowding around and we made little progress. Then I knew what was happening and I asked Dick if he had his wallet. Sure enough, the people were gone and so was his wallet that was in his front pocket. So now we have had the ultimate Guatemalan experience…..a pick pocket! Dick had his temple recommend, one credit card, his CA driver’s license, and about Q50 ($7) in his wallet. He had left everything else home. Oh well, I have been telling him for many months that he should buy a new wallet. Now I think he just needs to get a money belt. We really learned something today. The good thing is I left my purse at home. I have a small red makeup bag that was part of a gift from Dennis and Christine. It has a clip on it so I put the copies of our passports in it and Q600. I clipped it under my clothing so it wasn’t visible. We will be better prepared next time we venture out and we will be smarter and more aware.
We went to Antigua and had lunch in a quiet little restaurant. We were the only customers and it was very pleasant. It was good to walk into our little apartment and be home. All in all, it was a good day and we count our many blessings. Dick’s sister Marilyn always used to say, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” A stolen wallet is small stuff. Dick emailed Jill and she has already cancelled our credit card. When she signed up as our daughter in the pre-existence I doubt she knew how busy we would keep her when we went on our mission.
2 November 2008…..Sunday
Today we attended Church in Montufa Ward, Guatemala Stake. We have been to the building before and so this Sunday we weren’t lost before and after Church…..well not much. That is because the streets were very quiet in the morning and we went “the wrong way” down two one way streets to get where we needed to be. It is the ward where six of the senior sister missionaries attend Church because it is within walking distance for them. We met with the stake specialist for PEF after Church and he is very good. He taught us things about the educational system here. He is 26, single, and he graduated in December as a chemical engineer. He would like to find a scholarship program in another country to help him get a master’s degree.
Today is fast Sunday and we will be going to President and Sister Baldwin’s home across the street from the temple for dinner. It is about 20 minutes away. I am assigned a main dish so I have made Cyndy’s crock pot recipe that calls for chicken, catsup and Coke (I’m using diet, caffeine free).