Last night at “break the fast” President Baldwin asked me to give a brief report on our Saturday outing to see the giant kites. I began by pointing to Elder Clarke and saying that he warned us on Friday that we could lose our wallets at the Kite Festival….in fact, we could even lose our pants. Then I told them I was happy to report that Elder Graff made it out of there with his pants. Unfortunately, his wallet didn’t make it. Life must be busy for a pick pocket.
We kept very busy today. Dick concentrated on his lost wallet. When we got home Saturday afternoon he emailed Jill and within an hour she had cancelled our credit card. She called Capital One to tell them we would be using that card in Guatemala but they wanted proof that she had power of attorney. Dick was able to take care of that today so they don’t throw up a red flag every time they see a charge in Guatemala. He called the American Embassy to see if they could help with his driver’s license. They said no. The DMV said Dick had to appear at a DMV office for a picture and a thumbprint to replace his stolen license. I found a phone number on the CA DMV for people calling outside of the U.S. That was the answer we were looking for. He talked to two different people but got the help he needed right away. They will replace it. It will look just like the other license except there will be no photo or thumb print. They said they will mail it to Jill in two or three days. She will then put it in the pouch mail for us.
We had to make preparations for being gone the next few days. I made progress on the October report for Elder Clarke. It is a new idea and so I have to glean information from three other monthly reports to put it all together. I started my Belize contacts for the month of November. The office was very quiet. Bawdens are in Honduras till Friday and I made use of Marilyn’s small space heater at my feet for awhile. The temperature gets up to the low 70’s during the day but when we get up at 6 am it has been 53 degrees. The windy conditions don’t help warm things up much.
We made a stop at Paiz on the way home to pay our cable/internet bill but a portion of the bill had been torn off and they would not take our payment. Now we have to figure out where we will be able to pay it. Then we went to the cleaners to drop off dirty shirts and pick up clean ones. After dinner Dick figured out how to call the kids on their house or cell phones using Skype. Dennis’ phone wouldn’t accept the strange call. We did get to talk to the McGarys.
4 November 2008…..Tuesday
Election Day. We left the apartment at 8:15 am and drove to the Guatemalan MTC. We arrived at 8:30 am. It is across the street from the temple. Part of the building has a number of hospitality rooms for those who come to the temple and need to spend the night. (150 beds) All of the rooms have bunk beds and a bathroom. I saw several rooms near us with 5 or 6 bunk beds. We have the only room with a queen sized bed. We have a bathroom and shower in the room and a refrigerator…..all the comforts of home. This morning we were here to meet the 12 missionaries coming home from their missions. They are all from Guatemala and have served in other countries…..most in Central America. While we were checking them in, there were two families out at the gates of the MTC. One elder and one sister went out to the wrought iron fence and talked to their families. I could certainly relate to the mothers, reaching through the wrought iron to hug their child.
We got all of the missionaries checked in and assigned them 4 to a room……4 sister missionaries and 8 elders. We are their “abuelos” (grandparents) or “house parents.” We will be with them till tomorrow evening or Thursday morning, depending upon their travel arrangements, when they are released as missionaries. A large van picked us up and drove us the few miles to the Employment Center. I had a good Spanish lesson while we traveled with one of the elders. He asked me questions and I struggled to answer them. As soon as we arrived lunch was served…..chicken, rice, salad, corn tortillas and a drink. Class started soon after and went on till 5 pm, at which time we were served sandwiches and a drink. Then back to the lessons on being self-sufficient. At 7 they had chow mein. I didn’t eat that meal because I was so full from the day of eating.
At 4 pm Dick and I walked from the Employment Center to the office for the Guatemala City Central Mission so President Baldwin could interview Dick for a temple recommend to replace the one that was in his wallet when it was picked out of his pocket on Saturday. The office is on the fifth floor of an office building in the next block and was packed with new missionaries and their luggage. They just arrived today. Four of the senior sister missionaries that are in our FHE group but live in a different apartment building, work there. I gave Sister Baldwin our card with our phone numbers and asked her to please call me tonight and let me know about Proposition 8 in California and to tell me who the new president is. There is no TV where we are staying and no internet connection. I’ll probably endure the evening just fine but I would really like to know what is going on in my beloved country today.
We came back to our housing area and got the missionaries settled into their rooms. We stayed down in the lobby and read till after 9 pm but all was quiet with our missionary group.
5 November 2008…..Wednesday
Last night was interesting. I really felt frustrated at not knowing what was going on in the U.S.A.
I got ready for bed and before 10 pm I took my dose of half an Ambien. Dick and I had prayer and I figured if the cell phone rang Dick would answer it. I turned off the light and we crawled in bed. The phone rang and I answered it. It was Sister Baldwin telling me that Obama had won and that there was no result from California and Proposition 8 yet. I thanked her for letting us know. The alarm was set for 5:30 am but at 4:17 I woke up. I didn’t know if I had talked to Sister Baldwin or if I had dreamed that Obama had won. (More like a nightmare). I laid awake a long time contemplating that. When the alarm finally went off that is the first question I asked Dick. My pill must have kicked in before my head hit the pillow.
By 6:30 this morning there was a basketball game going in the MTC parking lot right under our window. Sure enough, it was a dozen “Gringo” missionaries. After a few weeks at the MTC in Provo they come down here to complete their language training. I shook hands with a lot of sweaty elders. I even found one from Salem. One from northern CA said how hard his parents were working for Proposition 8 and they felt that was more important than who won the presidency. I believe that. The van came at 7 am and we loaded all 14 of us in and went to the Employment Center for the rest of the training. Newspaper vendors were in the streets and the headlines were all about Obama winning the presidency. At the office I read one of the newspapers….well I looked at in and guessed at the words. Many of the front pages were full of the happenings in the U.S. Guatemalans have many ties to the U.S. We encounter some who have lived there and many who have family there. Dick called the office and talked to Bonnie King who told us that Prop. 8 looks good but they hadn’t called it yet. The King’s son is mayor of Folsom, CA.
We had the “typical” Guatemalan breakfast of eggs scrambled with tomato and onion, black refried beans, and fried plantains. They served it with sour cream. Lunch was milanesa only that isn’t what they call it. The lady who caters it is so tiny. I am a giant. I am taller than many of the women I encounter. Classes were over by 3:30 pm and then we were fed hamburgers. Their sandwiches and hamburgers that we have had are served on crusty rolls. The hamburger or meat filling is quite sparse. We were still full from our huge lunch. We took pictures with the missionaries, then went out to the curb and waited for our van to take us to the temple.
Every time I am in the temple I feel the peace it brings, and especially, the Guatemalan temple. It is such a blessing to the people. The room was full with about 25 of us. Dick and I were witness couple and that really took some concentrating for me to know where we were in the endowment. I could have used headphones for English, but I prefer the challenge of Spanish. Afterwards, in the celestial room, I was so taken by our young missionaries. All 12 of them, praying and meditating. Tonight was a huge step in their life. The women have finished 18 months of service and the men have completed 2 years. I’m sure there were many feelings and emotions going on. Some of them go home to difficult situations. Some come from prosperous families. One young man of Caribbean descent was met by the family who baptized him. He was wiping the tears from his face. One was the “class clown” of the group. Two of the sister missionaries kept their families waiting outside on the temple steps for about 30 minutes after everyone else had gone out. I went back into the temple twice to get them. They are all awesome kids and the future of the Church in Guatemala looks great. Many, many bishops here are in their twenties and stake presidents in their early thirties and these young people who get educated will have much to give. Those who learned some English from their American companions will have a great advantage in this country.
Everyone gathered over at the MTC where the missionaries picked up their luggage. There were so many happy families. Some stake presidents were there to release the missionary. Others will see their stake president today. One mission president came because one of the young men lives in a district, not a stake. It was all touching. When they all left we had two sister missionaries still with us who will be picked up tomorrow by family. Percy, who runs the hospitality side of the MTC, ordered pizza and the four of us went into the kitchen and ate Pizza Hut. It was delicious. The two young women could put away the pizza as well as any of the elders. It was almost ten when we went back to our rooms.
The kitchen at the hospitality center is very large. There are about 8 large tables in there and it is stocked with all kinds of dishes. It is for the patrons to use when they come to the temple. They bring their own food and then use the kitchen to cook. Sometimes as many as 5 buses will come with members of the church from other Central American countries. Tonight there were a few families using the kitchen. There were also a number of people getting rooms so they could go to the temple tomorrow. When a couple desires to be married in the temple, they must first have a civil ceremony here in Guatemala. After the ceremony they go their separate ways and then the next day they go to the temple to be sealed for time and all eternity. We had little boys, playing in the hallways tonight with their little trucks and cars. Sure made me think of our little ones at home.
6 November 2008…..Thursday
This morning our last two charges were picked up and our assignment was completed. Groups of missionaries return home to Guatemala every three weeks. Next time, Elder and Sister Boman will take the 8 hour drive from Petenl to take care of them. They like to come because it is so much cooler here than there and it gives them a chance to shop. We will take our turn every six weeks. It is great to be around missionaries! Last night I opened our bedroom window because I could hear missionaries singing “Love One Another.” Our room shares a wall with the MTC. Outside the gates this morning was a family….a father in a white shirt and tie, a mother in her typical native dress, and two children. They were waving through the wrought iron and the mother was wiping her eyes with her other hand. I cried when I saw it and I cry as I write about it. This mother and I have little in common, but what we do have in common is everything to me and to her. We both love the Lord. We are both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have both experienced leaving a child at the MTC who is going forth to share the gospel. We are worlds apart but we are both daughters of our Heavenly Father and therefore we are one and united.
After we loaded the car this morning we bought a couple of items. There is a couple who married 14 years ago after both serving missions. They have supported their family by selling scripture covers, tote bags, ties, etc. Missionaries are a major customer. I bought a shoulder bag in beautiful native colors, to carry my things in. I am trying so hard to get away from my big, bulky purse. I also bought a small one that I can wear under my clothing when I want to avoid pick-pockets. It will hold passports and money. It was the first purchase I have made alone because they both speak English. We stopped at Cemáco and bought a fleece throw to put on the couch.
It was good to get back to the apartment, turn on Fox News and get on the internet. I don’t like being in the dark about what is happening back in the states. We were thrilled to know that Proposition 8 passed. The religious people of California all deserve credit. The members of the Church have been tireless and I know that Jill’s family and Jeff’s family have done countless good with all the work they put into the campaign. I am proud of them. I knew the Lord would bless their efforts. If we don’t stand for what we believe in we will have to live in a corrupt society and pay the price for apathy. Any society that aborts millions of the unborn can be classified like the wicked societies in the Book of Mormon. Add on to that the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah and we had better stand for truth and righteousness.
7 November 2008….Friday
We took Hermana Jones and Hermana Rowley to their office and then we headed to our office. We were happy to find a box on the desk, addressed to us. It was a year’s supply of all of our prescriptions from Salt Lake. We left mid morning and went to pay our cable/internet bill. It was a complete success. We got there without problems and we drove back to the office without problems. We felt really good about ourselves. Now we will see how well Sunday goes when we have to venture out to two different stakes.
The Nacimiento (nativity set) I ordered was delivered to me at the office today. It is beautifully done. I have it displayed in our dining area. It is small and very “Guatemalan.” We ordered two more to be delivered in January. By the time we leave here we plan on having a set for each of our children. When we were driving today we noticed that they were putting up an enormous tree decoration at the Obelisk. There are Christmas decorations strung across the Avenue of the Americas just like the ones Pomona used to put up when we were kids. The stores have huge sections of Christmas decorations, even a five foot plastic Santa singing “Jingle Bells” in English. They really get into Christmas here. When we arrived here in September there were Christmas items in the stores.
I had time to do a census indexing project today and I saw that so far this year the volunteers throughout the world have indexed over 100,000,000 names. That is astounding!
8 November 2008…..Saturday
Today is our P-Day and we began it by picking up Dick’s shirts at the laundry. I don’t iron shirts anymore and he irons his own handkerchiefs. He is pretty proud of himself. We went to the mall for our hair cut appointment. Marta was a good find for us. She does a great job on Dick with the hair cut, and she keeps his bushy eyebrows trimmed. He was pretty useful at the salon today. While I was getting my hair done a woman came in that didn’t speak Spanish. He told the stylist that she didn’t want her hair cut, just a shampoo and style. Another time she needed him to give more information for her. She is from Fresno and her daughter-in-law is Guatemalan. We wandered around the mall afterwards. I need a couple of sweaters but didn’t find anything I liked. The main department store is closed for remodeling. We had lunch at the mall but it wasn’t very Guate…..we ate at McDonalds. It was the hottest Big Mac and fries I have ever eaten. It’s the only fries I have ever eaten that didn’t need salt. It made me think of Jill working fast food as a teenager and not putting salt on the fries because she didn’t think people needed all that salt.
We made a quick stop at the pharmacy on the way home and Dick picked up a newspaper. After we got home we walked out the front door of the apartment building and down the street a half a block to a small market where Dick can get Diet Caffeine Free Coke. We bought a hunk of cheese and frozen bread ready to bake. We had our first Skype video call with the McGarys. It is so great seeing the family.
Our neighbors, the Tilleys, arrived home from 12 days in Honduras about 8:30 pm. I had chili heated (found some Stagg brand here), hot bread, sliced Gouda and brownies. They came in and we ate and visited.
Something I have observed: I have never seen or heard a lawn mower here. The gardening is done with a big knife, machete, or clippers. The street sweepers are literally people with a broom. We did see two guys on a motor bike the other day. They carried a lawn mower and a rake with handles removed, and hedge clippers
I determined, after 9 weeks in this country and 11weeks as missionaries, that Dick and I must both make an important sacrifice. My sacrifice is that I can’t just ask him to go to the cleaners or to the store or to the bank. I have to go, too….missionary companions must go everywhere together. I love to just stay home. His sacrifice is that he can’t just jump in the car and drive around and explore and check out lots of things. Once we have done something I am ready to be back in the safety of our home. Once we have been lost I don’t want to go somewhere else and get lost again. My comfort zone has always been home…..I think his has always been behind the wheel.
9 November 2008…..Sunday
We left home at 8 am with Tilleys and went to Florida Stake to attend Church in Florida Ward and visit with the stake specialist. The map Reynaldo drew for us was very accurate and we made it there and back with no problems. Our time with Sister Recinos went very well. The high counselor over PEF was also there which shows that she has great support in her calling. This was another time that we gained great insight into Guate and its people. They told us that one of the problems that holds young adults back from using the PEF program is that children 8 to 10 years old will quit school and get a job. Thus, they never finish their schooling. It is so sad that this country is in such a condition that children have to work.
This afternoon we and Tilley’s left for Palmita Stake at 3 pm. Again, Reynaldo drew a map that worked and we had no trouble finding the building or leaving the building. Patty Alvarez is the stake PEF specialist. Her husband is stake president. She organized a fireside for prospective users of the fund and for parents. There were about 60 in attendance. Dick spoke, followed by testimonies of three who are using the fund now. Then for 25 minutes Reynaldo conducted a question and answer session. It was a very successful meeting and the first time we have participated in a fireside format.