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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.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Week of February 2nd to Feb. 9th

2 February 2009…..Monday
Last night after we got home from “break the fast,” Dick was happy to find the Super Bowl in English. At half time he invited the Hermanas over to watch it. Most of the game was on mute and the four us had a great visit.
We were very busy at the office today. In fact, the last three weeks have kept us very busy. I emailed the request for the January report to all the specialists in the city. I emailed my Belize students. I emailed all the stakes we will be meeting with next Saturday and Sunday. For lunch we shared a plate of food from the “red car.” We met with Reynaldo and he and the other PEF leaders are concerned about the number of students who are over 150 days behind in their repayment. He wants us to visit those students whenever possible, not to collect money, but to find out what is going on in their life and how we can be of help. We need to explore the best way for us to accomplish that. The Fund has a number of programs to help them. We need to access their situation and offer some help. We will also try to get them onto a debit program where the bank can withdraw the amount from their accounts monthly. The trouble is many don’t have accounts. And, they are fearful of debits.

3 February 2009…..Tuesday

We had email replies from 5 specialists so I got them entered on the report for Elder Clarke. I got folders put together for all 14 stakes that we will be meeting with this Saturday and Sunday. I started with a dry throat yesterday which is not sore but annoying. Then by noon I was having other problems, so Dick brought me home. After lunch he went back to the office till almost 5 pm.
Tonight we went through our Power Point presentation. It works flawlessly at home so we have high hopes for Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
We got a phone call from the Taylors tonight who are doing medical presentations in Nicaragua. She wanted to know my recipe for meatloaf so they can make it for the mission president’s family. I have no recipe. I just throw in basic ingredients until it looks right. I hope it turns out well for them.
When Dick paid the rent this month we found out that we will not get a discount on the amount we pay for furniture rental since we have mission furniture in the living room. It is all or nothing. Since we need the beds and kitchen set we have to keep paying the full amount. So, we have readjusted our bedroom so we have the other, smaller sofa and chairs in there.
He also found out that only $200 of our “rent” goes for the furnishings. $100 goes for maintenance. We certainly can’t argue with that. The building, hallway and stairs are kept very clean. It even smells clean. The parking garage is also clean. Plus, we have security on duty, so all in all, it is worth $100.

4 February 2009…..Wednesday
I stayed home today. I felt like I might be getting a sinus infection. I had several last year but none since June. They seem to be connected to my allergies. We will see how I do and if I have more problems we will go to Meykos pharmacy and buy what my allergist always prescribed for me. Dick came home early afternoon and brought me a shake and then went back to the office. There will be plenty of things waiting for my attention at the office tomorrow.

5 February 2009…..Thursday
I’m feeling pretty good so I was back at the office today. Most of my work was getting folders put together and literature ready for the stakes we will be visiting. It was chilly today, never making it out of the sixties. Plus the wind was blowing with gusts in the thirties. It felt like Lancaster. And, there is no heat in the office or at home. I have used my space heater a lot today here in the apartment. This afternoon I checked the temperature for the places we will be going. Retalhuleu was 93 this afternoon with an expected low in the 60s tonight. Quetzaltenango was 55 degrees this afternoon and an expected low tonight of 36 degrees. It is in the highlands, higher up than Guatemala City. Retalhuleu is near the Pacific coast. It makes it interesting trying to pack for cold weather and hot weather.
On the way home we made a quick stop at Paiz for a few food items to take with us. This evening we worked on our power point presentation. We can’t get the remote to work so I will be at the computer pushing buttons.

6 February 2009…..Friday
First thing this morning Rexene was at the door with warm muffins. Dick went to the office to pick up some letters from Elder Clarke for the stake presidents of the stakes we will be visiting. I finished all the packing for our warm and cold weather destinations. Our plan of leaving about 10:00 am did not work out. The fleet car we were going to take was not back from wherever it had been. Bill waited a couple of hours before they finally decided to have us take the Toyota Prado Land Cruiser. He got back to the apartment and we started packing the car. Dick arrived awhile later with the letters.
We headed out of the city, going southwest. Our drive was very pleasant. We brought sandwiches for lunch. The roads were good, for the most part. We found our hotel, the Gran Carmel, and checked in. It is a small hotel in a quiet setting, very open and tranquil. Then we drove through Retalhuleu and found the Las Palmas stake center where we will hold Saturday’s meeting. It was right on the main road. We decided to drive down to the Pacific coast and have dinner there. It was an hour drive, not that it was that many kilometers away, but the road was poor, and it went through several small towns. That always slows us down. Some of the countryside was ranch land and had herds of white Brahma cattle. Their buildings and equipment looked like something out of a thirties movie. We got to the Pacific just before the sun made its dip into the ocean.

There were thatched roof places to eat but nowhere that Dick and I wanted to risk our health. We pulled into one of the places because it was the safest place to park the car. Because they let us park there we bought a couple of Fanta sodas. Blackburns are from Hawaii so they had them bring a green coconut with a straw and we tried the coconut “milk.” Then the little lady that owned the place cracked the coconut open and brought it back to us with two spoons. The meat of the coconut before it ripens is gelatinous and doesn’t even taste or feel like coconut. Dick and I tried a couple of small bites but that was enough for us. Blackburns love it.
While we were there a woman came walking past our table with a little girl who was almost 4. She was carrying a pail and they were selling small turtles they had caught at the beach. When they left the “niña” went around the table and gave each of us a kiss on the cheek. Bill gave her a few Quetz. It was getting dark by then so we drove back to the hotel for dinner. We ate on a patio near the pool and it was lovely outside. The temperature was perfect and there were no bugs to annoy us. Actually, Guatemala has proven to be a very non-buggy place.

7 February 2009…..Saturday

We had breakfast at the hotel restaurant, this time inside the hotel but in an open room with no glass to impair our view.

We overlooked the pool and all the palms and tropical plants and it was like being in Hawaii. It was a complimentary breakfast but was off the regular menu. We checked out of the hotel and went looking for a store to buy bottled water and snacks for those who attend our meeting. It is not so easy to find groceries unless you know exactly where you are going. We drove around the town. They had a very new area with all kinds of stores, just not what we were looking for. Just off the town square we finally found a La Torre which sells groceries. There was no parking, anywhere. Not that there were cars taking up the parking spots….there was no parking. Dick and Adele got out of the car and went in the store while Bill drove around. It was easier for me to just stay put so I was chauffeured around by Bill. One time we passed the store and they were checking out but the guard wouldn’t let us stop so we drove around some more until they were outside waiting for us. We decided that people who live in the city walk to the neighborhood store and buy no more than they can carry home.
We got to the stake center just after noon for our 1:30 pm meeting. As we pulled in a little girl came running out of the building.

When Adele opened the front door she climbed up and hugged her and kissed her and said she was there to help. Then she went around the car and we all got a hug and kiss. It was like a welcoming by one of our grandchildren. She carried things in and stuck very close to Adele or me. Her older sister was there, too. They were very good for me because while I got the computer set up we talked. Carla was 9 years old and Maria Patricia was 12. I showed them pictures of my “nietos” on the computer. I pointed out that Hannah was 9 and Megan, Madisen and Kourtney were 12. Children are easier for me to understand than adults. I was able to converse with them so they understood what I was saying, too. I gave them some of the crackers and goodies we had brought. Their papa was the chapel custodian. He told me that they didn’t have a mother. I don’t know if she died or left the family, but it was clear that Carla was looking for a mama as she would go from our room to Blackburns room. A number of times she would hug me and put a kiss on my cheek.
Just before the meeting started a meal was brought into our room for each of us. We didn’t eat because it wasn’t the thing we wanted to do ten minutes before conducting a meeting. Our meeting was a great success. Six stakes were invited and five had a representative. The only stake not there was one we had visited in October when we were traveling with Bawdens, so that specialist had already been trained. We felt very good about it. I handled the Power Point well and Dick did a good job in instructing. The room was very warm but there were two ceiling fans that helped. It was probably in the low nineties.
At the conclusion we packed up our things and headed to Quetzaltenango or Xela (Shay-la). It took two hours. Someone at the meeting had suggested a better road to Bill. Well it wasn’t! We have been on the other road with Bawdens. This road was more winding, and then while we were driving through a little town the road came to an end because there was a huge bulldozer blocking the whole roadway, which had been washed away. Two pickups in front of us made a right turn so Bill followed them. We ended up on a dirt track, going up a steep incline and then down, curving around, wondering where we were really headed. Awhile later the trucks made a left turn and soon we were back on the cobble stone road. Before finding a good asphalt road we saw more washed out road but we still had a good lane to drive in. The road was probably washed out 4 or 5 months ago during the rainy season.
So back on the road to Xela. Most of the pickups we saw were loaded with people in the back. We were climbing a lot….all the way up to 8000+ feet. It was chilly. It was getting dark as we came into the city. We had to hunt and ask for directions to find the hotel. And after following the directions, we had to ask for help again. It was pretty fruitless, we ended up calling the hotel and the man at the front desk stayed on the phone and gave us directions for about 15 minutes to get us here.
We were assigned to room 202, the same room we had when we were here in October. Also, that is our apartment number. I knew it would be cold here so I brought my space heater and my fleece throw. When we walked into our room I was pleasantly surprised to find a space heater already running and a toasty warm room. We went down to the restaurant and I had tomato soup and hot chocolate. I was very happy to be able to get on the internet while we are here at this hotel, Anna Inn.

8 February 2009…..
Today is Kelsey’s 24th birthday and tomorrow Megan will be 13 and Mitchell will be 12! We started the morning at the restaurant and then left for Church. While we were wandering the city last night we passed three chapels so we pretty much knew about where we were going this morning. Church started at 9 am. We walked in with a young missionary from Dallas, Texas. We also met a couple from Montana who are here with two teenage children and they are all studying Spanish at a special school here.
At the end of our church meetings we got a room set up for our PEF meeting. Our expectations were exceeded. We had 22 in attendance.

All of the 8 stakes in the area were represented, plus 3 of the districts. Some of them traveled a couple of hours. We had a mix of specialists, high councilors over PEF, and members of stake presidencies. After the meeting we were fed a very flaky pastry with a hamburger mixture inside and a drink. Then a member of the local stake presidency got in the car with us and took us to see the lot where the Quetzaltenango Temple will be built.
They expect to be ready for ground breaking in a few months. The view is lovely from there and the volcano makes it an even better view.
We have spent the last five months visiting a specialist almost every Sunday and talking with them and training where necessary. Some of them have trained us. We have enjoyed the one on one. We know their names and what stake they are in. We email them and they email back. When Dick calls them they recognize his voice. It has been a great experience. In the last two days we have met with 14 stakes in two meetings. It is not quite as personal, but we have been able to give good, current information, not only to specialists, but to the priesthood leaders. This is another great way to help the work progress. It is always interesting to see which turn our calling will take.
At the end of our presentation this afternoon the cell phone rang. It was Rexene, requesting my pie crust recipe. Actually, Margaret Thompson’s pie crust recipe. Back at the hotel now and the little heater feels very good, especially since the floors are all tile. We will go down to the restaurant for dinner in a while.

9 February 2009…..Monday

This morning we had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. I had panqueques (pancakes), fruit, caramelized plantains, o j and hot chocolate. I never thought I would come to Guatemala and become more hooked on hot chocolate. We checked out and drove a few miles to the employment center to talk to the director. Then we headed for Guatemala City at 11 am. It was a pleasant and enjoyable drive. At about the half way mark, two hours later, we stopped at Chichoy, a restaurant/gift shop. Unfortunately the gift shop was closed but we each had an individual papaya/pineapple pie. It was very good. The restaurant was very cold so I had to have hot chocolate to go with it. We were about 8500 feet in elevation.
The road was farther north than the road we took on Friday. There was a great deal of construction going on, mainly from road slides in the area. We probably saw at least 6 volcanoes today. Also, just a brief glimpse of Lake Atitlan in the distance. It makes for a picturesque landscape. We arrived back in the city a little after 3 pm and stopped at Hyper Paiz (Super Walmart) to buy food to take to the farewell dinner tonight for Sister Rodriguez who is returning to SLC after her mission. We were assigned a main dish so we bought a whole cooked chicken. We were home by 4 pm and it is always good to come back to our little apartment. The dinner was held at the Clarke’s patio and the weather was quite nice until the sun went down.
Before we left on our trip we gave Sister Jones the key to our car so she could use it while we were gone.

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