30 November 2009…..Monday
It was a good day to finish up the month at the office. At noon Taylors invited us to go to lunch with them and Karchners. We went to Las Cebollinas. I tried their jalapeño nachos and they were okay but no place compares with Hudson’s nachos. Karchners are welfare missionaries who will be leaving on Thursday. They are here for a water project. Then they go to Peru for a few weeks, then home till their expertise is needed again. We had a very interesting conversation. We found out that he served his mission in Argentina in the sixties. As he and Dick were talking about the places they served, he mentioned the English couple, the Carrolls. We both nearly fell over. He knew the whole family as he was the missionary serving there when the Carrolls were introduced to the church. We told him they stayed at our house in La Verne when Doreen married Germán in 1972. He told us he and Sister Karchner attended the wedding in the Los Angeles Temple. So, the four of us were at the wedding and then we hosted a small reception at our home. He told us the Carroll family immigrated to the states. We lost touch with them thirty years ago. Santiago and Shirley are living in the Layton area. Elder Karchner will contact their son so we can have an email address for them. We always marvel at the “small world” but it is totally amazing that he would mention the “English couple, the Carrolls” knowing that Dick would not have known them when he was in Argentina because they weren’t members then.
I rode home in the afternoon with Blackburns to make carbonara for the farewell dinner tonight at the Clarke’s patio. I went to the dinner with Blackburns because Dick was still in meetings at the office. He showed up at the Clarke’s as dinner was beginning and he brought the Elder and Sister Dunford with him. The farewell dinner is for Elder and Sister King, area executive secretary, and the Walkers who have been here with the American Embassy. It was an amazing evening on the patio. At this time of year it can be very chilly and breezy. Tonight was calm and I didn’t even need a sweater. Our group from Victoria Suites (our apartment building) sang at the conclusion of the dinner. It was a song we wrote together last week. The melody was “We Three Kings.” The words are:
"These two Kings are flying afar. Walkers have to drive in a car.
Fields and mountains, Waters of Mormon, Tikal and Antigua.
Land of wonder, land of light, lava flowing bright at night.
We will miss you, vaya con Dios, amigos, adios."
Kings fly out of Guatemala City on the 12th. Walkers are driving their car from Guatemala City to Washington D.C. They will spend the next year learning Hebrew for their assignment in 2011 in Israel.
1 December 2009…..Tuesday
Last night after the dinner Dick told me we were going to Antigua today, all day. All seven of the directors of the PEF call centers in Central America are here for three days of training/motivation. Today is to be a fun day and Reynaldo wanted us to go. We met the group at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at 7 am. Then we went to the office for a few minutes before piling into two vans. It is so good to see Elder and Sister Cerros again. When we were with them for five days in El Salvador last February they were serving as full time missionaries, living at home, working with CES/PEF. They completed two years of service and are now serving another two years from home. This time they are running the call center in El Salvador, responsible for monthly contacts to all the participants in that country.
First we went to Antigua but we did different things than we senior missionaries usually do. We did go to a jade jewelry factory/store for a tour and to see how the stone is made into jewelry. But, it was not the usual place we go too. I have always thought of jade as being green. But, there is black jade, varying shades of green, blue jade, lavender jade and pink jade. The pink veins are running out and will likely not be available in a few years. Also, the lavender is rare. We walked around a little bit and then got back in the vans. It was reassuring to see that we senior missionaries are not the only ones who get lost driving the streets of Antigua. Reynaldo and Claudia were each driving one of the vans and they made wrong turns and had to ask directions several times.
We went to Museo Casa del Tejido, a small museum that has an “exhibition and sale of Mayan dresses and exclusive handicrafts.”
Reynaldo stood by me and translated all the information and detail about the different textiles.
She has been working on this for 27 days
The more handwork on a piece, the more the cost. Each region or village will have their own characteristic colors/patterns. If a piece is reversible with the same pattern on both sides, it is from San Antonio. I bought a beautiful table runner for my dining room table at home. It was made in Chichicastenango. I have looked for a year to find something I really liked and today I found it! I also bought a three beaded Christmas ornaments….Santa Clause and two stars.
Mauritza from Costa Rica decided we all needed to put on hats
We got back in the vans and started driving. When I left home this morning I had no idea what we were doing other than going to Antigua. So, I was along for the ride and was pleasantly surprised all day. We headed south toward Escuintla. I began to suspect our destination and I was happy to see that we were entering La Reunion, a resort. Some weeks ago Elder Neil Anderson was here to speak to all the mission presidents in Central America. They all gathered at La Reunion. The Taylors and Kings were also there because of their specific assignments here. They raved about this beautiful place. We drove through this beautiful acreage for over five minutes before arriving at the main building. It is all new. Membership is $30,000 and to join one must have three existing members must sponsor them. It’s a lot of money by U.S. standards but extremely expensive by Guatemala standards. Many of the rooms are individual buildings with a golf cart and small pool per room! It sits in the midst of a beautiful golf course. We had an excellent lunch that had been pre-ordered by Reynaldo. We started with a beautiful bowl with a stuffed mushroom. Then the waiter came in with small “teapots” and poured a pureed spinach soup into the bowl. Next was a steak which was tender and good, served with a salad and a bundle of sweet potato fries wrapped together with a piece of green onion. The dessert plate had a fresh strawberry, small spun sugar cup holding banana flan, and a small dense chocolate cake with fudge sauce. I had a pineapple licuado to drink. It was all very elegant and very delicious.
We sat on the terrace overlooking the golf course and visited and walked around and took pictures. It was overcast with clouds that resulted in a few light showers. At 3 pm we went into a small conference room and had an excellent meeting. Adilis Oliva taught a motivational lesson. Even though it was all in Spanish I found myself understanding a lot of the message. I could feel what she was teaching. We had a project to see how well we worked together. We formed two groups and were each given a roll of masking tape and a bunch of straws and told we had five minutes to build a tower. Ours wasn’t the tallest but our group reinforced as we built and at the end ours would stand alone. The other tower would not. It was a great lesson and we had a lot of fun with it. Adilis teaches psychology at San Carlos University and volunteers a lot with PEF. At 6 pm we headed back to Guatemala City. When we got back to the city the day was not over. It was almost 8 pm and time for dinner. We went to Friends, a restaurant near the office.
It was fun. They had music videos, played by a deejay. When Elvis Presley started singing Reynaldo told me to get up and dance. No, missionaries don’t do that, but my feet sure wanted me to. Most of the group would sing along with all the American songs. It was a fun place to go.
Claudia had the radio on all day as we traveled. Coming home tonight I heard my favorite Christmas song from the time I was five years old….”Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” For the first time ever I heard it in Spanish.
2 December 2009…..Wednesday
Dick left early to be at the office for the first meeting with the call center directors at 7 am. I went to the office with Tilleys a little later. I finished the November loan report. The group was leaving for lunch so we went with them. We went to Saul Café which is a restaurant at a men’s clothing store. We had soup, salad and crepes. We got back to the office in time to close up my computer and turn off the desk top and I left with Rexene and Adele. We were picked up by Jennifer Johnson, Suzanne, Sister Clarke and Sister Martino. We went over to Equity School, a private school which is owned by the Justices. We planned to help them put together 225 gift baskets for the needy. When we got there they were all done. They weren’t just baskets…..they were wash tub size containers all wrapped in plastic with a paper attached that said the name of the family and the name and ages of the children. Each contained packages of rice, corn, sugar, beans and other staples including incaparina (the high protein milk substitute for the malnourished). Also, clothing for each child plus a gift for each child, fleece blankets, diapers, etc. It is a huge project that the school children (all grades) participate in donating and packaging. We were given a tour of the school and we enjoyed this wonderful opportunity to see what Brother and Sister Justice have created and run for over twenty years. Many of the children are here with families from America or other countries. They speak only English at school.
After our tour our foursome from Victoria Suites decided to walk home. It was a warm day and lovely out. We had to do the ultimate, something I never thought I would do……cross Las Americas Blvd. on foot. We were only a couple of blocks from our apartment and the traffic is lighter at the end before it narrows to a smaller street. We dashed across the southbound side to the center parkway and then again on the northbound side. We were all exhilarated to say we survived this dangerous activity but the traffic was quite light and we didn’t step out till we had plenty of space. I was able to go to the candle store that is there and buy a pound of paraffin for dipping my Christmas chocolates. Dick didn’t get home till about 6 pm and we went to Tilleys for a bite to eat.
3 December 2009…..Thursday
Dick left very early this morning for the office. He was in meetings with the call center directors, off and on, all day. I had a couple of hours to finish reading the book of Alma in Spanish. I practiced the hymns for Sunday and practiced all the Christmas hymns and songs in the Children’s Songbook. He came back for me at 11:30 am and we went to the office. We all piled into the vans and went to Wendy’s for lunch. When we were walking out of Wendy’s Dick hit a bad spot in the curb and went down on his seat. He got right up and said he was ok. Which he was. I gave him some Advil later in the day but all is well. All the sidewalks here have missing chunks and raised spots from tree roots, etc. None of them are smooth and even. Then we went back to the office for more meetings.
Today was the conclusion of the three day seminar. We have been part of video conferences before with all the directors but this is the first time to meet most of them. Elder and Sister Cerros from El Salvador are full time missionaries. The others are all volunteers. A call center director is not an employee of the church nor is it a church calling. These wonderful people give freely of their time and energy: Mauritza Soto from Costa Rica, Eleana Valladares from Honduras, Nora Aviles from Nicaragua and Eda Altamirano is from Panamá and the wife of an area Seventy. She gave us a Christmas ornament of a Panamá hat. I will always think of her when I hang it on our tree. Of course, we also had our own call center director here in Guatemala City, Ingrid Barrera, and I take care of Belize.
About 5 pm we got back into the vans to go to Reynaldo´s home for dinner. We rode with Claudia and she had to make two stops. First, we went to her home and she picked up her seven year old son, Diego. Then we had to go to zone 1, the old downtown area, to get some gifts they had ordered for the group. We pulled into a small parking lot and waited while Claudia and Ingrid went into the store. Mauritza sang Spanish songs with Diego and taught him a song in French, which he is learning in school. We sang Christmas songs in English to him. After 45 minutes of waiting Claudia came and got us and said they were still waiting for the gifts to be delivered to the store. We went inside and we all sat and waited for over an hour before the delivery came. It is not rare to wait in Guatemala. It seems to be part of the culture. An appointment is a nice time to show up but people think nothing of being an hour or two late. We had a drive of about twenty minutes to get to Reynaldo’s. Sister Cerros was in the kitchen frying popusas, the best I have tasted. They are a Salvadoran staple.
Plus we had flour tortillas to fill with scrambled eggs, beans, tomatoes, avocado, crema and a thin sauce for it all. All of us were given gifts: a picture of the group, a motivational book, leather business card holders, and a pen with a laser light for pointing at the screen when we are doing trainings. The pen also has a built in flash drive. Pretty nifty! Claudia brought us back to the office to get our car and we got home after ten.
4 December 2009…..Friday
Things are back to normal at the office today with the end of the seminar for call center directors. We got mail! Belated birthday cards and pictures from Jeff and Dana. Those around us in the office have been ooohing and aaahing over the pictures of Jessica and Ava…..a gorgeous high school senior and a beautiful baby about to have her first birthday.
We went to the Employment Service Center for a Christmas devotional at noon. They invited all their volunteers and the volunteers for the Bishop’s Storehouse. Elvis’ fourteen year old son, Diego (very popular name here) was at the office because he is on a break from school. He likes to practice his English with me. I gave him my camera so he could take pictures of the event.
Then we downloaded them onto his dad’s computer. We were fed beef, mashed potatoes, a salad, roll, and cake. We were all given a gift basket of goodies (individual packets of crackers, cookies, pop corn, candy, juices, chips, etc.). We will give ours to someone in our branch. Then they had a drawing for a free breakfast at San Carlos Hotel. I was the winner of the desayuno (breakfast). By then it was 3 pm so Dick brought me home and then went back to the office to work on the never-ending stream of PEF applications.
Our apartment smelled so good when we got here. Rexene was making all the gingerbread for the houses we will help the sisters make at our Relief Society meeting tomorrow afternoon and she was using our oven and Tomkinson’s oven. Sister Carrias and her teenage daughter were here helping.
Tonight was movie night at Tomkinsons. We watched “White Christmas,” the perfect movie to get the holiday season going. I miss the days of the wonderful G rated musicals.
5 December 2009…..Saturday
Dick was up and gone early to work on applications at the office. I whipped our apartment into shape. I sorted through some things and ended up looking through all the mail we have received from family and friends since we came here. I was astonished to count over 80 cards/letters plus innumerable pictures. Cyndy has sent us one of her lovely handmade cards for every month we have been here.
As I was playing the keyboard this afternoon I thought of the many times at home I sat down at the piano to play and when I was through I would find that Mother had come into the living room to sit down and listen. Sometimes I heard her come in but most of the time she was so quiet that I didn’t know she was there. When I was a young teenager and taking piano lessons she would tell me many times that I didn’t have to dry the dishes….just go in and play the piano. She and Daddy went to Santa Maria once in the late eighties to hear me play in the May Concert for Hancock College. It was a performance by the advanced piano class. I was advanced compared to most of the class, but far from advanced compared to the young Japanese woman who was incredible. I wish I could play as well now as I did then. I played Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” It would take many, many, many hours of intense practicing to be able to play it the way I did then.
Dick and Jim left shortly after noon to go to a civil wedding and reception for Francisco and his bride. They will be sealed in the temple this evening. Rexene, Adele and I left an hour later to go to our Relief Society meeting to teach the sisters how to make gingerbread houses. Our church building had a water main break so we met at the Carrias home. It was a combined activity with the Young Women. There were about 15 gingerbread houses made and decorated to the hilt with tons of different candies. The activity was a total success.
It is cool in the apartment this evening and time to close a few windows which have been open for a few weeks. Maybe the weather is truly cooling down, finally.
6 December 2009….Sunday
Today Alie is 8 years old and will soon be baptized. My music playing went well at Church and it was fun to start playing Christmas music. This evening is break-the-fast. It will be held at Clarke’s apartment and Sister Clarke and Sister Martino are furnishing the makings for ham sandwiches. The rest of us are taking appetizers and desserts so I made two pounds of spiced pecans, a recipe from Eleanor Anderson in Santa Maria. These tasty pecans have been a Christmas tradition for us for about 25 years. After dinner we will watch the Christmas Devotional by the First Presidency.
- Elder y Hermana Graff
- 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.