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.