Our dinner last night was most enjoyable at the Tilleys. Dick and Jim took our table and chairs over to their apartment so we could all sit down for dinner. Preston and Bonnie King were there. They are from St. Louis, MO. He is the executive secretary to Elder Clarke. They served in a bishopric together many years ago and Elder Clarke called them earlier this year and requested they come here as missionaries and serve in his office. So, Preston decided to retire and one day after his retirement they came here…... two weeks after the phone call. President and Sister Torres, president of the Guatemala City North Mission also came for dinner. They are from Taylorsville, UT but their roots are southern CA. She grew up in east L.A. and he grew up in Simi Valley. They both served missions in Central America many years ago. It was so interesting to hear them talk of the mission and the young missionaries. Being Hispanic, they have incredible insight into these young native missionaries.
We have been in the apartment all day. Today is a Guatemalan holiday….Revolution Day. It was recommended that we not go anywhere as there were planned demonstrations. Of course, I loved just staying here. Tonight for Family Home Evening we ventured out…..next door to the Tilleys. They did a presentation on Security and the things we need to know. There were 20 of us in attendance. Tilleys did a power point presentation on security issues. It was all things we need to know to keep ourselves safe. Being aware and being smart are very critical to safety here in Guatemala.
21 October 2008…..Tuesday
Back to the office today. We set up appointments for this weekend when we will travel with Bawdens to Quetzaltenango and the surrounding area. We have two appointments with specialists on Saturday, and two on Sunday. Each specialist is very excited to hear from us and very willing to meet us at the stake center. There has never been anyone here in our position to work with the specialists before. I called Belize again and finally reached the last participant that I need to talk to for this month.
Dick made additional calls to the local specialists for their reports for September and October. I even got over 50 census names submitted to the indexing project. I love doing it.
Gregorio came in to shine shoes. Dick’s shoes look fantastic after he is done. He brought his seven year old brother, Victor, with him who wasn’t feeling well. They are living here with extended family members but they are from Polochic (the place with no running water or electricity). Gregorio’s native tongue is Quiche and he didn’t learn Spanish till he came to the city. Now he asks questions, as he shines shoes, about English words. This little guy will be fluent in three languages some day.
On the way home we stopped at Paiz, the Walmart owned store, to pick up a few items and to pay our electric bill. For the first month it was over Q900….about $120. That is pretty high considering we have no heat or air conditioning. I checked out a small store that carries a little fabric to see if they had fleece. They don’t. We want to make some fleece blankets as a Christmas project for some young children that are in a facility sponsored by the Lion’s Club. So far, none of us have found any fleece.
I came home to a find a few little specks moving on my counter tops. They are the smallest ants I have ever seen. If they hadn’t been moving I would never have seen them. I am very experienced with ants after living in the Antelope Valley. A little spray of Lysol disinfecting kitchen cleaner stops them in their tracks. In fact, it drowns them.
22 October 2008….Wednesday
No office today. I woke up feeling fine but needed to stay near the bathroom. We planned on going to the office later but by then I had a migraine. I’m very happy to say that it is the first migraine I have had since entering the MTC which will be two months ago on the 25th. I took the wonderful blue pill the neurologist prescribed for me a few years ago and I am feeling much better. He sent me down here with a good sized prescription that should last me for the duration. In the afternoon I had a roll and my wonderful hot chocolate made from Ghirardelli chocolate chips. It is my comfort food. We bought the rolls last night at Paiz. They are a sandwich roll. We usually have them for dinner the night we buy them and then I make sandwiches out of them for the office the next day. They are good enough for company. The price is Q1 a piece…..or 7 for a US dollar….the best deal we have found here.
Dick and I have both lost weight since our arrival here. I am forever straightening my skirts so the zipper is in the back. Dick has actually moved his belt to a tighter notch. I think his weight loss is due to a breakfast of cereal instead of Sweetie Pie donuts in Lancaster. When he had his eye surgery five years ago I went to Sweetie Pie’s and asked for his favorite donuts and the gal behind the counter knew they were for him because of what I asked for. I told him them he was going way too often.
Tilleys came by after they came home from the office and we visited for about an hour. They are the best! This is the only time in our life that we have not been a home teacher or visiting teacher, or had a home teacher or visiting teacher. As senior couples we pretty much fill those roles for each other.
23 October 2008…..Thursday
Another day is coming to a close. We took the sister missionaries to the Guatemala City North Mission office where they are assigned. It is probably a half mile away and they always walk, but after our FHE of security issues, Dick told them we would take them every morning. They live two floors above us. I call them “the girls,” and they laugh. One is 62 and the other is 59. They are lovely ladies. I was relieved to get to our office and so grateful for Imodium. A little after 11am four of us senior couples left for the temple. Today we did a session in Spanish. I have done one or two Spanish sessions in LA in the past. If my mind wanders even a little I get lost, so it makes me pay close attention. It is wonderful to be in that place of peace. I am so grateful that we were called to serve in a place with a temple nearby.
When we left the temple we went to a nearby store that carries some products from the US. That is the only place we know of where Dick can get caffeine free, diet Coke. We stopped at Little Caesars and had pizza that tasted really good. I love the late lunches because then I don’t have to cook. Our evening ritual continues to be study Spanish. I do it on the computer and Dick’s new method is the World Series in Spanish. When I hear the TV going I always have to see what he is watching because I can’t tell if it is sports or an old cowboy movie with a Mexican side kick. After Spanish I work on my journal, then we read together in Spanish. We are working our way through the October issue of the “Liahona. “
24 October 24, 2008…..Friday
We were busy this morning getting our materials together so we can leave at 5 am in the morning with Bawdens to go to Quetzaltenango. They will do welfare presentations and we have appointments in four different stakes with the PEF specialist.
A little after noon we left to go to a nearby stake center for a job fair. We were on the street, next to the church, and when we got to the corner it was one way, and then at our next turn, another one way. We got onto the main street about two blocks down from the church and there was no left hand turn so we headed out to the Roosevelt area and it took us about 15 minutes before we could make a left turn and go back on another one way street. Traveling here is crazy. We weren’t lost. We knew where we were. But we couldn’t get to where we wanted to be.
There were 80 different booths in a huge indoor parking area behind the church. All participants were church members who had info about their product. No selling took place. PEF had an area also with brochures about the program. The Church Employment Center organized the whole thing and it will run through Saturday. One sister had beautiful wooden artifacts. She and her husband are a success story after both being out of work. They have a great gift. I ordered a small Nativity, or Creche, or, as they say here, a Nacimiento.
Time to finish packing as the night will be very short.
Early in the morning…..5 am to be exact….we met the Bawdens down in the parking garage and left for our busy weekend. We drove through Patzicia, climbing hills through a beautiful valley before the sun came up. It was 45 degrees outside. There are always people along the roadside, walking, wherever we are traveling. They were all in their colorful native dress. We went through an area of new construction on a divided highway, but before they can complete it a lot of the mountainside area has slid down. It seems to slide down faster than they can clean it up. It seems to me that they have a major engineering problem. It makes me think of Malibu with all the sliding hillsides. At home the hills are covered with big, beautiful homes. Here the hills are covered with shacks almost stacked on top of each other. Poverty seems to settle in those areas. As we climbed in elevation via the winding roads the temperature dropped to the low forties. We went through some light fog. Then a sign said “zona de tumelas.” (speed bumps). Dean said there were probably 50 speed bumps along the road before we arrive at our destination in Quiche. We ended up counting them as we went. Even just creeping over them was a huge jolt. My seat belt got tighter and tighter with each bump and several times I had to loosen it. I think we would have been thrown about in the car without the seat belt.
We entered the city of Chichicastanango. This is a city dating from the 1500’s. Guatemalans tend to not tear anything down. There are little square dwellings that are black with mold and age. We stopped at the Mayan Hotel just because Dean wanted us to see it. It is virtually vacant. It has a beautiful courtyard of flowers and cobblestone walkways with the rooms off of it. In its heyday it must have been something. It looks like something out of a forties movie where Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz would be staying. I took a picture of an orchid called the Monja Blanca, the most expensive orchid in the world. In the past, Dean had tried to buy a start of the Monja Blanca and it was $1000. He didn’t buy it.
We entered Quiche about 8:15 am and sure enough we went over speed bump # 51. We stopped at the Shell station for gas and Dean called someone to come meet us and direct us to where we needed to be. (Quiche is not a stake but a district, so we had no stake specialist to meet with). A pickup pulled up to us on the side of the gas station and two young missionaries got out of the front seat. In the back seat they had two young sister missionaries. We hugged the sisters and greeted the elders. Dick asked which mission they were from and when they said Central, I told them we were always looking out to find Elder Facer or Elder McAfee because our son is their bishop . One elder pointed to the back of the pickup where two other young missionaries were riding and said, “There is Elder Facer.” We were so delighted to meet him. We had brought a new camera for him that his parents sent down that we gave to the mission president to deliver. Elder Facer thanked us several times for bringing the camera he was using. I took a goodly number of pictures of him and sent them to Jeff and the pictures are now on his parents email. We also met Elder Oldroyd. I told him my brother was delivered by Dr. Merrrill Oldroyd and was even named after him. He said he was his great-uncle.
Bawdens, as welfare missionaries, were doing a presentation of new stretchers for ambulances to a local volunteer fire department. There was a TV station there to interview Dean and take pictures of the event. But meantime, the presentation wasn’t until 10 am so they took the missionaries for a ride on the fire truck. All the young elders and sisters climbed on top, along with Dean. Dick, not to be outdone, stood on the back bumper of the truck and held on. I objected, of course. It didn’t matter that it worried me, he was going. Since his dad was a fireman for all those many years I’m sure Dick’s ride on that fire truck was a dream come true. Marilyn and I waited for what we thought would be an around the block trip. It was beautiful outside with blue skies and fluffy clouds, but cooler that what we are used to the city. We waited, and waited. It ended up being a 30 minute trip through that area of the city. The streets are so narrow I don’t know how the fire truck even made turns. Periodically, they would sound the siren and then announce over the loud speaker that at the fire station there would be a presentation at 10 am, sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was relieved when they arrived back at the station to find out that they didn’t lose Dick somewhere along the way.
The presentation was made with a few people from off the streets and a number of Church members. The missionaries did a puppet show for the children. Dick was able to talk to a branch president about the Fund. All in all, it was a great experience. We left at 11:15 am in order to make our next appointment. Back on winding two lane roads and climbing in elevation. We hadn’t eaten all day and we didn’t have time to stop. Fortunately, I had two individual packets of Ritz crackers, two packets of soda crackers and 3 small Quaker granola bars. We shared them and were not filled but at least satisfied. We saw more areas where major mud/rock slides had closed portions of the road. Some of the roads were divided, four lane roads and quite nice. The scenery was beautiful. We drove into the city of Quetzaltenango, the second largest city in Guatemala. It is called Xela (Shayla) by the natives. The property has been purchased for a temple but they have not broken ground yet.
We passed on through a modern area, then through an ancient area where the streets are big enough for an oxcart, yet it is the only way to get to the highway we needed as we continued on to San Marcos. There was a lot of laundry out drying…..some on ropes, on fences, on bushes, laid out on grass, or simply lying on metal roofs. I always wonder how clean it is when they bring it in. The farther we traveled, the higher we went on more winding roads. We got rain and then fog as we approached our next destination. Dean called the stake president who did a good job of directing us to the stake center, and thankfully, the fog was improved as we got into the area. While the Bawdens did their presentation, we met with Hermana Merida, the stake specialist. As we got into the car I discovered five Hershey miniature chocolates, dark of course, in the bottom of my purse, so we shared them to fortify us for the rest of our day. Already it had been a long day. I was tired, hungry and very chilly in that elevation about 9000 feet.
Once again, we hurried on our way. The stake president drove his car and guided us about five miles back the road to San Pedro Stake. We had come through that town in the fog and never seen the stake center on the side of the road. There was a small turnout there for the welfare presentation and our specialist never showed up. Dick made several calls but never located him. He was able to spend 20 minutes with the first counselor in the stake presidency and gave him the training materials for the specialist. There were few people but many hugs. One sister, muy pequeño (very small), hugged me every time she walked past me. She was probably 4 ½ feet tall. When we left the building there was actually stars in the sky and it was a relief to see the fog was gone. We drove back down to Quetzaltenango to the Anna Hotel which took about an hour on the dark, winding roads. Jim Tilley called to make sure all was well with us. As security missionaries they like to keep track of the rest of us when we are gone.
The hotel was small, very new and very quiet. We checked in and then went to the restaurant about the size of our living/dining room at home. It was 8:30 pm. We were the only ones there and we had a very relaxed, comforting meal. I had cream of tomato soup with mozzarella cheese and croutons and it was delicious…definitely not Campbell’s. I had a fruta de leche made of fresh pineapple and milk, also delicious. Our room was cool with no heat or no air, but comfortable. The best part, the water is pure and safe and for the first time in seven weeks I brushed my teeth with water from the tap.
26 September 2008…..Sunday
We started the day in the restaurant before 7:30 am. Again, we were the only ones there. The meal started with a small plate of four sugar cookies, with a pat of butter for each one and strawberry jam. We each enjoyed our cookie as we waited for the meal. I had French toast, fresh fruit and hot chocolate. I’m so glad we had that meal to start the day. We went to Los Rosas Ward in El Bosque Quetzaltenango Stake. They have a large beautiful building and a lot of members. There were fifty people in the Gospel Doctrine class plus a bunch of beautiful babies. One eleven month old boy was as enthralled with me as I was with him. He was such a happy little boy. He loved to see me pick things up off the floor. My throat grabs when I watch the children and think of my own nietos (grandchildren) back in the states. I did lose it today, for the first time, when I saw an elderly lady, holding onto her sons arm as she walked through the hallway. I hugged her and didn’t let go and told her son that she reminds me of my mother. I have not let tears get to me before, but this time it did.
We met with Brother Gonzales, the stake PEF specialist and that went very well. He offered to show us the way to the road we need to take to our next stop so he got in the car with us. We went through the old area of narrow streets and turns at unmarked corners. After he showed us we dropped him off at the stake center and then went to our hotel to check out. Marilyn got four bananas from the restaurant so we had a slight lunch.
We drove out of the city and through beautiful countryside, this time going lower in elevation.
We went from 8000 feet to 500 feet. The terrain was the most beautiful I have seen since we arrived in Central America. There were beautiful groves of banana trees, bougainvilleas, many vines including bugle vines, corn growing everywhere in the country, and one colorful poinsettia. There was a lot of sugar cane when we got to the lowest elevations. We were about 30 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean. Dean called the stake president in Mazatenango and he directed us to the stake center.
It was very warm/hot when we got out of the car. The chapel and the bishop’s office was air conditioned but every place else in the building was warm. This stake president was very organized and very much a leader. He told Dick that after the welfare presentation he would like a presentation about PEF. The leadership in the area was already seated in the chapel fifteen minutes early. Two stakes were combined two months ago and there are 5000 members in the stake with 9 chapels and 10 wards. The room was packed with 120 people. There was lovely organ prelude music, the first organ I have heard in seven weeks, but when it came time for the opening song it was done without any accompaniment. Dick did a great job. He spoke almost 30 minutes and I knew most of what he said. I see that the last fifty years of Dick’s life has prepared him for this calling…..his language, his knowledge and his love of this education program. After the meeting he met with the specialist and gave her a training manual and a CD. One of the brothers guided us out of town to the main road and we left for home. We had reservations in a nice hotel nearby but decided to head for Guatemala City.
The drive was dark on winding roads but Dean has young eyes and quick reflexes. Jim Tilley called to see if we were staying or coming home. We were home before 8 pm. When we unlocked our door we knocked on Tilley’s door to report we were home and the first question was, have you eaten? Before we could put our things down they were carrying in warm leftovers from the Chinese food she had made. I dished it up on plates and they visited with us while we ate. They are a blessing in our life.