I was still a little weak this morning but by afternoon I was feeling much better. I was busy all day with another format of the loan payments so I transferred the 75 I had already done. This may be my busiest assignment of all. There are about 2300 loans that I will have to enter each month as they are paid. It is all on my laptop so I can work on it at home and when I travel. Sister Saenz, who was released as a missionary in December, comes to the call center as a volunteer once a week. She brought some necklaces she had made. I was the first to see them and I bought two of them. I will support her efforts to earn a little money.
Tonight was a great FHE taught by the Tilleys about the Holy Ghost. It really made us think of the times that we have felt his influence the most. We are so blessed to have the gift of the Holy Ghost bestowed upon us after baptism. We had some additions to our FHE. Brother Duran, our new DTA, was there with his wife and youngest son. They moved here from SLC but they are from Chile originally. Their son has been called on a mission to New York City. Another couple was there, the Walkers. They live down the block from us. They are both employees of the US Embassy.
10 March 2009…..Tuesday
This morning we drove to the Casa de Huespedes. Our returning missionaries arrived by bus from the airport about 10:30 am. We have 8 elders and 1 sister. They have been serving in Honduras and Nicaragua. They were all hungry so I went to the MTC and they gathered up some bananas for them. Next time we will buy juice and snacks for them. I promised them they wouldn’t be hungry the rest of the day.
We got to the Employment Center at noon and the first thing on the agenda was the meal. We had chicken, mashed potatoes and salad and the usual 3 tortillas. Late afternoon we each had a personal sized pizza. Just before 7 we were served huge plates with the Guatemalan version of a chile relleno. Very different from the Mexican version that I love, but very good, none the less. Plus, the plates were heaped with spaghetti, no sauce but seasoned well, and green salad. I barely ate any of it because I have had so much food today. The elders said they aren’t hungry anymore.
After we ate we went out to the front of the building and the van was waiting for us to bring us back to the Casa. I sat at the computer listening to the sounds outside this room. There are a number of people here from Huehuetenango, about five hours away in the highlands. They use the huge kitchen here and prepare their food. They attended the temple today and will again tomorrow before going home. They watch each other’s children so they can all have the opportunity to be in the temple. Some of the “elderly” women are dressed in the traditional clothing. I finally wandered out the door. Dick was sitting in the lobby visiting with some of the men. One had used the Fund and worked in Belize and he knew some of the people we know. One is a bishop. He supports his family by driving truck from Guatemala to the states. He recently hauled a load out of Fontana. These are such good people. They always love to ask us questions.
I spent all of my hours at the Employment Center on my computer, putting the loan repayment information onto the report. I did almost 300. Dick and I are in room 108, right across from the kitchen. They are not through remodeling our usual room on the second floor with a queen size bed.
11 March 2009…..Wednesday
We left our room about fifteen minutes to seven and found that all our missionaries were already in the lobby or outside. Usually, we have a straggler or two, but this seems to be an exceptional group. Elder Caal, from one of the northern districts, takes my computer every day. Elder Mendoza takes Dick’s briefcase. Elder Bonilla talked to us in English quite awhile yesterday. He learned from his American companions, particularly an Elder Jake Wood from Spanish Fork. Whether we talk to these returning missionaries or others in the wards and branches who have been home ten to twenty years, they always speak highly of the American companion that helped them learn English. The brother who runs the Casa made the comment that the brethren says we need to learn English. English is the language of the Church, even though there are more Spanish speakers than English speakers in the Church.
After our big breakfast I had to inquire how they cook the plantains. I’ve had them a lot but these are probably the best I have had. I was surprised that they add no sugar, just slice and carmelize in a little oil. They are very sweet. Others have told me to use some sugar. The interesting thing here, the things they bake are not sweet enough. They seem to use less yeast because most things are flat and uninteresting. They don’t use a lot of salt and don’t serve their bread with butter. They don’t spice things up. Never is anything spicy unless it is Mexican cooking. A bottle of Tabasco is a necessity for those of us who like spice.
Elvis, yes, Elvis is alive!! No, not really. The director of the Employment Center is Elvis Gomez. He hooked my computer up to the internet for a few minutes today. I was able to send the loan records back to the office and also check some of my email.
I worked on Spanish during this morning’s lessons. Dick called on me to say the blessing for our lunch. Of course, I said it in Spanish. After amen, I heard a chorus of “Bueno, Hermana Graff!” Never before have I had an ovation after I prayed. Lunch was chicken, rice, green salad and rolls. Class ended about 3:30 pm and then we were served a very large pastry similar to an empanada stuffed with tomato sauce, pieces of lunch meat and lots of cheese. We were on the sidewalk at 4 pm waiting for our van to pick us up.
As soon as we got to the Casa, Dick and Elder Mendoza walked to President Baldwin’s home across the busy highway. Since Elder Mendoza lives in Atitlan in a district, the mission president is the one who must release him. I gathered up our temple clothes from our room and the rest of us walked over to the temple. President Torres was waiting outside for two of our missionaries from the northern districts so he could release them from their calling. We all attended the 5:30 pm session and Dick and I were witness couple, again. When we told this group yesterday morning that we would be attending the temple they almost cheered. They haven’t been in a temple for two years and they were very excited to be able to do that at the conclusion of their mission. I was very touched watching them in the celestial room afterwards, all praying but also tears. We spend only two days with these returning missionaries but we love them and I find myself offering constant prayers for them that they will have great success in life. It is up to them to make that success through education.
I cried again as we left the temple, watching families gathered to take their son or daughter home. The hugs and tears make me remember those same experiences in my life, plus the fact that I am now the one on a mission and how sweet homecoming will be.
Five of our missionaries left with family. Four are still with us as and they will be picked up tomorrow. We gathered in the kitchen for an evening meal. Patty at the Employment Center had ordered meals from Wendy’s for us. They were delivered to the Employment Center and the bags were given to us when we left. So at 8:30 pm we were eating cold chicken sandwiches and stale fries that were at least five hours old. Usually, she gives us money to order from Pizza Hut. At least that is hot and fresh when we eat it.
12 March 2009…..Thursday
I went out to the car in front of the CCM that sells various things. I bought Dick a tie with the Guatemala Temple embroidered on it and a colorful scripture case for my Spanish scriptures. It all cost Q95 or about $13. Then I had Dick go back out with me and we bought him another tie and scripture covers, too. Two of our missionaries were picked up by families before 9 am.
A new crop of missionaries arrived Tuesday night after spending 3 weeks at the MTC in Provo. They will be here for 6 weeks before going out into the field. We always enjoy meeting them. We met one from Sanpete County near Fountain Green where Daddy was born. Then we met a young man from Simi Valley, CA. I asked if he knew the Richmonds. They are in his ward and he has a few memories of Al as his nursery teacher. I told him that Al gave me my first box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day when I was 14. I took pictures of him and his companion who is from Riverton, UT. This afternoon I emailed their pictures to their families and to Richmonds.
The last of our missionaries was picked up about 11 am and so we loaded our car and left. We stopped at a small store near the temple, hoping to find cans of clams so I can make more clam chowder. No luck, but we found a few other things. Then we went to Paiz and got milk and eggs and few other items. Shortly after we got home I discovered that I had left my clothes hanging in the closet at the Casa. Dick called the office and they checked the closet and said it was empty. Tomorrow we will go out there early and see if the guy who cleans has put them someplace. I left two pullover sweaters, my orange and my turquoise. The item I will miss the most is one of my black skirts. I have had it over 15 years and it was a hand-me-down from Marilyn Rosenlof. It has been my most valued piece of clothing here.
When Tilleys got home we went over and visited awhile. It’s always great to have someone hug me when I have been gone. One great thought we heard today from the brother selling scripture covers. In Guatemala they don’t refer to in-law in their family relationships. A daughter-in-law is a daughter, a son-in-law is a son. I love that because we look on our in-law children as our sons and daughters. It is a term of respect and expresses our love for them.
13 March 2009…..Friday
This morning Dick was out of the door before 7 am and went to the Casa de Huespedes to see if my clothes had been located. The guy who would have cleaned the room was supposed to be at work at that time and Dick stayed till 8 am but he still wasn’t there. I guess I can kiss that black skirt goodbye.
We got to the office before 9 am. We got a great picture on email from President Acevedo of La Rama Branch where we go when we are not doing PEF things. It is a picture of 7 boys from about 6 years to mid teens.
They are all holding scriptures that we took to the branch. President Acevedo gave some to families who could not afford to buy them. Then he had these boys do some work and he rewarded them with their own scriptures. He wanted us to know that they had to earn them. Tomorrow young women will be doing work to earn their scriptures. We are thrilled to see these young boys and the looks on their faces.
This was the slowest day I have had in many weeks, so I actually did some census indexing. We came home before 3 pm because the plumber was coming to fix a leaky faucet. Dick dropped me off and went to the cleaners to get his shirts. An hour and a half later he came back. He had gone to Cemaco a few miles away (and a lot of traffic) to buy a light bulb for our recessed lighting. I’m sure he enjoyed his time alone in the car. I wonder if there are doughnut droppings on the floor mat.
Tonight we had potluck with all our neighbors at the Tilleys.
After eating we gathered at two separate tables and played dominoes.
14 March 2009…..Saturday
Today was a completely unplanned Saturday. I did a little laundry and cleaning and then we left with the Tilleys and went to a warehouse store, sort of like a Pic N Save. It had a variety of things at pretty cheap prices. Dick finally found a magnifying glass. I got a larger glass vase and some small rocks and replanted my bamboo plant that is outgrowing its little container. We went over to Tilleys when we got home and had leftover chicken wings, papaya, mango, watermelon, and a pineapple smoothie for lunch. I came back home and did a little more cleaning and then we left with Tilleys and Hermanas Jones and Thibault to go to a large store full of used clothing. It was down in Zone 1 which is the old central area of Guatemala City. Jim and Dick carefully watched each of us. It’s not exactly the best area to be in. Kathy and Sarah found a few things that they bought. Kathy had President Torres’ car. That made it nice for all of us to be able to go together. On the way back home we stopped at McDonalds and had ice cream sundaes, purchased by the hermanas.
Dick drove over to the office when we got home to check emails and do a few things. I went across the hallway and Sister Barney (Darlene) cut my hair for me. When Dick came back we went over and she did his, too. I would rather pay her and it is nice having her just steps away.
Skype was busy tonight. Marian called this evening but her camera wasn’t working. A little later there was a conference call with Marian and Myrna. It was great to see Myrna, Brian, Kristy and Katy. Now our great grandchildren will remember us when we return home.
15 March 2009…..Sunday
We were home this morning because we had plans to attend one of the few wards that has a 1 pm Sacrament Meeting. There was a Skype call. It was Marian with a working camera. So we got to talk to Tristin. He is two and another cute great-grandchild. I think he remembered us from our trip last August when we were in Florida.
We left with Tilleys at 11:30 am. They had a meeting at the chapel because of security issues for some of the members. We went to Utatlan Stake where they actually have three wards meeting in their stake center. After Sacrament Meeting, Dick was able to spend a few minutes with Zully Barrios about PEF. The training manual that Claudia put together is new since we spent time with Hermana Barrios.
Today we had the opportunity as a family to fast for Bethany. We have had great concern for her health lately. She has been in a lot of pain and even had a liver biopsy. We constantly call upon the blessing promised to senior missionaries that their family will receive blessings they never would have received without our service. Cyndy jumped on the situation during the week and emailed all of us about fasting together. I appreciate her insight into what we needed to do.
As I sat in Sacrament meeting today I jotted down a couple of things. 1) I am grateful for Dick’s willing heart to serve wherever he is called. He always gives all his energy and devotion. 2) I am grateful to be here. I love the people in Central America and their good hearts. 3) I love wearing my black missionary badge. It means something to me but also to the members of the Church. They are very kind to us.