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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.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Journal - Week of September 21 - 27

21 September 2009…..Monday
There was plenty to do at the office today. I completed the Specialist report and emailed it to Reynaldo and Claudia. I finished the report of our activities since our last PEF Committee meeting and emailed it. This time I included pictures. We had a cup of noodles at our desks and then went to PEF Committee Meeting at 1 pm. It was freezing in the conference room on the 5th floor. The air conditioning must have been set very low because it didn’t go off once in the hour and a half we were there. I played the piano for the opening song. I guess I have let habits on the keyboard take over because I was not playing all the bass notes. When we got back down to our office it was freezing there, too. That is pretty normal for our office but we have a control by Dick’s desk. The Call Center is on the same air conditioning unit as our office and when there are six or eight people making calls and using their computers, that room can get very warm. They never set it at any temperature. They just slide it down. Today at one point it was set at 55 degrees

It started raining early afternoon and has been going all day. We went to the patio at Clarke’s apartment building for the farewell dinner for Charlie and Judy Albert. They came here on a mission five months ago to construct the dental clinic and their part of the job is done. They are going home to Durango, Colorado on Wednesday. They plan on coming back to Guatemala to serve again after they take care of their businesses. While Charlie has been busy with workers and construction, Judy has done two large mosaics out of pieces of tile depicting scenes at the orphanage where the clinic is located. She is very artistic.

22 September 2009…..Tuesday
By 1 am this morning I was awake with an upset stomach and pains. The results of all that kept me awake for the next three hours. I figured it must be food poisoning. I am very achy today and I even have a fever which is amazing because normal for me is 96.8. Mother also had a sub-normal temperature. My thermometer is in centigrade so it says 37 degrees which is 98.6 but that is a temperature for my body. So with all the achiness and fever I am wondering if I have flu. Rexene brought me some watermelon and Dick went to their apartment for dinner tonight with the Alberts.

23 September 2009…..Wednesday
I had a good night’s sleep and felt much better today. I was hoping to get a lot done at the office but no new loan report and no emails from Belize, both of which slow my progress. I worked on the Shutterfly photo book that I am making for the Alberts. It is about finished.

At lunchtime we went to the Annex building for a lunch of hotdogs, potato chips and ice cream. José is getting married Friday and it was to honor him. They played pin the veil on the bride and a type of charade game. Then they gave him gifts. Everyone chipped in Q40 a person to cover food and gifts. He is one of my favorites.

Bill brought us home and a few minutes later Dick got a call from the office that Gert was there to see him. So, Dick borrowed Blackburn’s car and went back to the office. Gert had fallen in a hole and wanted Dick to take pictures of his badly bruised leg. He is 78 and has suffered a lot of pain and problems due to an auto accident a few years ago. Then he and Preston gave him a blessing. Taylors were busy all day with two doctors from Salt Lake who had come to do some investigating about the Typhoid cases amongst the senior sisters and half a dozen young missionaries. Carolyn asked Dick to pick up a cake at San Martíns on his way home.

President and Sister Torres came to our apartment door about 7 pm, not knowing that the meeting at Taylors was changed till 7:30. They came in to visit and the Tilleys came over. We took our kitchen chairs and the cake upstairs for the meeting. The doctors have been involved in a number of interviews, including Dr. Tarot, and other specialists. They talked about the diagnosis…..was it really Typhoid or something else. We all tested positive for Typhoid but the testing used here is no longer used in the U.S.A. The immunizations we all had before coming here could have caused the positive readings. One thing is clear…..we all had various stages of symptoms and have done better since treatment. They are meeting this morning with Nancy, the manager of our apartment building, to find out about the water there, but we never drink it or brush our teeth with it. We do shower in it. They have done testing in the bathroom on the first floor of the office to make sure it is properly cleaned, and it is. They basically found out from us last night that we all have excellent hygiene and we all are extremely careful in our cooking and cleaning of fruit and vegetables. Some vegetables can be impossible to ever get clean, like broccoli, berries, and even onions. Soaking in bleach cannot accomplish it. I, personally, would rather open a can of S&W peaches or green beans than risk fresh vegetables and fruit. I think the general feeling is that somewhere, water is the problem. They told us that the sacrament prayer for the water does not include killing all the germs in the water, which got a laugh. Sometimes, depending on where we are for Church, it would be best to skip the water. Our young people in different areas of the country are extremely susceptible to the food and water conditions. Dr. Wooley has developed a system of water purification, not filtration. Filtration is not sufficient. There are systems for the home, for a sports bottle that costs about $16 and a $5 straw that will purify anything. They are available at the MTC Bookstore and online. It sounds like an excellent plan for our home food storage and 72 hour preparedness kits. They also told us that all the hand sanitizers they tested work….for about two minutes. The best is available only at the MTC Bookstore and it works for 4 hours. We came away with a lot to think about and a recognition that most of the world lives under these difficult situations. How blessed we are in our home country, but we do need to be prepared.

24 September 2009…..Thursday
This morning we got travel plans firmed up as we are leaving Saturday for the Peten and then on to Belize. We will be gone till October 1. We went to lunch at Wendy’s with Tilleys, took Dick back to the office, then we went to help Sister Clarke finish up her Shutterfly book and get it submitted. That took almost two hours. We went shopping at Paiz and Jim brought me and Rexene back to our apartments with our groceries and he went to the office to finish up things and bring Dick home. This evening we went to Tilleys for dinner with Blackburns and Neil.

Things are happening in Honduras. Zelaya is back there at the Brazilian Embassy which has prompted curfews. On Monday the first curfew was announced for everyone to be off the streets by 4 pm. It wasn’t even announced till 3 pm. David Robertson, church employee over finances in Central America, was there for a overnight trip on business. He got stuck in the country. He was able to get to a hotel and at least be off the street but there was no way he could get to the airport. He was finally able to get home yesterday. The Church Facilities Management people got him to the border with El Salvador and the Facilities Management from El Salvador met him there. Quite an adventure for him.

25 September 2009…..Friday
This morning we went to the office with Blackburns. They came to our office with us and we talked with Bawdens and firmed up our travel plans for tomorrow. The whole morning became frustrating when the lights were dimming and the power was weird. It took Dick a couple of hours before he even had power to his computer or phone. I had power and could get on the internet but nothing would send, so the letters I did for three Institute directors concerning exceptions did not send. I had internet up and running on my laptop but soon lost that, too. Everything we do is halted when we have computer problems. The day we get back home, Thursday, October 1, Reynaldo and Claudia leave for Salt Lake City and further PEF training in the new program. At least we have easy access to one another via email.

At noon we went to Paiz with Blackburns and then home for lunch. I spoke to a woman with a beautiful baby girl, her granddaughter. She spoke a little English and I spoke a little Spanish. She was married to a German but he died last year so she came back to Guatemala. She said she had a room in her home to rent to “missionaries” and it was in a safe area. We are so recognizable to people. She gave me her name and phone number and I told her I would pass it on to the mission presidents. Meanwhile, a man we met at the office six weeks ago came to the apartment to deliver a painting he did of Antigua. I had asked for something small. This painting is big. But, I love the colors, the volcano, and the details he put around the windows. Anyone who has ever been there would recognize the scene as Antigua. He can’t read or write his own name but he can paint beautiful pictures. He will bring us a tube so that when we go home we can roll the canvas and put it in the tube to get it home.

Dick and Bill went back to the office. Adele and I stayed home to pack and get things ready to go tomorrow. At 7 pm we left with Bawdens to go to a wedding reception for José Ruano and Laura Arredondo at the Don Justo chapel. This was our first Guatemalan wedding. They were civilly married yesterday and then sealed in the temple today. We arrived at 7:30 pm, the starting time. However, it was not when they started. There were about thirty people there and some from the office that we knew. It is a beautiful chapel. The cultural hall is huge. There was an area for dancing and a deejay plus at least 40 round tables that seat 10 people. They each had a white cloth and a lavender square topper. The centerpiece was a clear glass cylinder with a lavender ribbon around it, half full of water with about 10 rosebuds stacked inside. It was beautiful, elegant, yet understated. We visited with others and then José came in. We were able to meet his parents and brothers and sisters. Finally the bride was ready, an hour later. She walked in on her father´s arm, down one side of the cultural hall strewn with rose petals and lined with lighted candles in holders. She wore a beautiful gown like we would see at home. The bride and groom danced with each other, then parents and other family members. Then they expressed their feelings for each other, for family and for the day. Then others lined up on either side of the room to dance with the bride or groom. All of that took about 45 minutes. Then they announced we should pick up our plates, go out to the foyer, down a very long hall to another foyer and there they had a serving table set up. The meal was catered. We had a thin meat rolled with cheese and whatever else I couldn´t figure out. It was covered with a sauce. Then rice and green salad and a roll was added to our plate. We went back to our tables to eat. We had Jamaica juice to drink. It is made from hibiscus and it is delicious if it isn´t watered down too much. This was the best I have tasted. The tables were all full so there had to be four hundred people there. There was no receiving line (YAY!!!!! Those can be long and tedious). The bride and groom walked around to each table to greet everyone. After eating we quickly made our exit. Marilyn wasn´t feeling well and we all had to get up very early tomorrow.

There was activity and music near our apartment when we got back. The roadway was taken up with a canopy and music and loud speaker with someone talking. Dean rolled down his window and asked what was going on. It was right in front of the entrance to the Brazilian Embassy. A young man told him that they were having a rally for Zelaya, the ousted president of Honduras who has sneaked back into Honduras and is holed up at the Brazilian Embassy. They were so loud we could hear it all from every room in our apartment. I don’t know what time they finally shut down but they were going strong when I went to bed at 11 pm.

26 September 2009…..Saturday
This morning we were downstairs by 6 am with luggage in tow. It was 6:20 am when we finally got everything loaded and ready to go. Dean got a nice Chrysler van from the office flotilla that seats us all quite comfortable and had plenty of room for our luggage and the bags of goodies we all took. It was a very pleasant trip. We made one stop in Rio Dulce for gas and bathrooms and then continued on. We got to Santa Elena in excellent time, just over 6 hours. We checked into the Hotel Casona del Lago. I like it much better than the hotel we stayed at last time. The hotel is also right on the lake. Rolling black clouds were coming in. We got a good thunder storm. Our door opens onto an outdoor walkway and the view is incredible. By the time we left at 3:30 pm for our meeting it was quite dry outside. The district president came to the hotel to guide us to the church.

The meeting went very well. Elder Bawden did his presentation, then Dick, then Elder Blackburn. We had 30 in attendance from the district. It was a training for priesthood and Relief Society leaders.

One great plus….internet available, for free, in our room.

27 September 2009…..Sunday

After a pleasant breakfast we went to the branch here in Santa Elena. We thought it started at 9 am but it had started at 8 am, so we got back in the car and drove to the branch in Poptun, about an hour away. It is a very beautiful drive between Santa Elena and Poptun. Threre are coconut palms and thatched roofs. When we first walked in the building there was a young man there, shaking our hand. I told him he looked familiar. He was one of our returning missionaries at the Employment Center about two months ago. He is going to school but not using the Fund because he was able to pass the tests and get into the university that doesn’t charge an arm and a leg. Adele and I went into Primary just to see what I ideas we could get for our branch. Children are always cute. While Adele went into sharing time with the older group, I stayed in a class with the younger children.
Two little boys about seven years old came up to me and asked a question. True to form, I could not understand what they wanted to know. As I shrugged my shoulders and said I didn’t understand, one grabbed a paper and pencil where the children were coloring pictures of Jesus with the children. He printed something and then handed it to me. As soon as I read it, I knew his question. He wanted to know where I was from. So the, I could talk to them a little in Spanish. No adult would think of writing it but this little boy understood my problem.

By the end of the meetings it was very hot and HUMID! We all got in the car and drove around with the air conditioning on for about 30 minutes. We had water and a snack. Then we went back to the church for the one o’clock training. There is not air conditioning in the church, but there are fans in branch chapel/multi-purpose room. They help tremendously. We have always had a job setting up the computer and projector and getting everything ready. We have learned our lesson. Now we ask the district president to take care of it and it has been nice to walk in with our flash drive and have everything ready to go. Today we had 23 there for training. We felt very good about our time with them.

Our drive back to Santa Elena went well. When we got back we drove over the short bridge to Flores, an island, for dinner at Captain Tortuga. We ate on a patio right by the lake. We ate there in December when we came before. It was good to get back to our hotel and our cool room. Tomorrow we drive to Belize.

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