24 May 2010…..Monday
A comment on the blog I posted yesterday: “Missionaries??!! More like a two year vacation.” That is from my baby boy. He is just one of our children who are telling us to stay for a third year so they can have the blessings.
Dick was at the office early. Today is the day all the exceptions have to be in Salt Lake before 9 am. I rode to the office with Tilleys. I finished up some loose ends with getting the Priesthood Report to the bishops. We received more papers via email from escrow and we had to have a page notarized. The only place we can go for a notary here in Guatemala is the U.S. Embassy. That is the only one the U.S. will recognize. Tilleys drove us to the Embassy and dropped us off because it can be such a chore to find parking, etc. We had to go to American Services. We walked through the scanning device. I carried my little pouch with our passports and U.S. dollars to pay for the service. Dick had to leave his cell phone, driver’s license, and keys there. We had to go to window #1 to make the request and leave the paper work and our passports, then to window #4 to pay $30, then back to the room where window one was and sit down and wait till they called our name. The whole process took less than an hour. That was good. We called Tilleys after we got the phone back and they were there to get us in about ten minutes. Then we went to Price Smart to do some shopping and eat lunch (food ála Costco). This afternoon Dick went to FedEx and shipped the packet of papers to the escrow company in Palmdale. It is supposed to arrive there on Wednesday.
Tonight was Family Home Evening at the Fillmores. President and Sister Mask, temple president and matron, were our speakers. They both served missions here when they were young. They have a great love for the people here, especially the indians who live in the higher elevations. President Mask read from the Book of Mormon, Helaman 6:36…. “…..the Lord began to pour out his Spirit upon the Lamanites, because of their easiness and willingness to believe in his words.” President Kimball said that today’s Lamanites are still willing to believe. The Book of Mormon is needed to convert the Gentiles, but for the descendants of Lehi, the Book of Mormon is a history of their fathers and their hearts readily believe. There are many beautiful stories about these special people. From the first baptism in Central America in 1948 to over 600,000 members now…..with over 215,000 just in Guatemala.
25 May 2010…..Tuesday
Dick was up on the roof this morning, watching the construction of the apartment building going on behind our apartment. From the roof the full perspective can be seen.
They are working on the second floor and this afternoon they are preparing the forms for the pillars so they can begin the third floor. These workers begin at 7 am and work till a little after 6 pm as it begins to get dark. They don’t construct buildings like in the U.S. These guys work one floor at a time. The building will eventually be about 12 floors high, towering over us, but we will be gone before it is finished. My view of the beautiful trees will soon be blocked, but I enjoy sitting on the couch and looking out at the workers.
These are very industrious men. I love to see them climb the rebar that reinforces the cement pillars. The one thing I thought of yesterday was the color. I often write of the color of Guatemala and the workers are no exception. They wear hardhats of various shiny colors, depending on their job…….red, blue, silver, and gold. The large crane carries everything….the forms to pour the cement, the large buckets of cement, etc. Always activity that would keep any little boy enthralled, including this Nana to 14 boys and 3 great-boys!
I worked on the report of the Belize participants today. Dick had Young Men meeting this afternoon. We have had wonderful rain almost every night for a week.
26 May 2010…..Wednesday
Tristin is 4 years old today! We woke up to rain, still. The office was very quiet this morning. I worked on the Area History for PEF and got it up to date, almost. Dick got a phone call mid morning from Elvis at the Employment Resource Center saying that they needed us to come be with the returning missionaries. Brother and Sister Lopez, volunteers who alternate the assignment with us got word that their son-in-law was killed in a plane accident, leaving a wife and two children. My heart goes out to them. I know what it feels like to have a son-in-law die. We closed up our computers and came home. Dick put on his suit and then left for the ERC. I packed our suitcase for one night. He came back to get me later.
What we found out a few hours later was that the son-in-law of Bother and Sister Lopez is the son of a couple in our branch, Brother and Sister Piñeda. He is the brother of Doris Carrias, in our branch. Doris’s husband is in the branch presidency and her son is the Young Men’s president that Dick works with. The other sister is Patty Alvarez, our stake president’s wife who is also the secretary to the area presidency and the PEF specialist in our stake. In total, we know 14 bereaved family members of this young man who was killed today. He was the pilot and had two passengers. They lost power right after takeoff and tried to return to the airport but went down into a warehouse. They all perished and one warehouse worker also died.
Dick picked me up and we went to the Casa de Huéspedes. The missionaries had arrived back there from the Employment Center. We all walked over to the temple…..well, waded is more like it. We were in the midst of a deluge. I had my small umbrella and Dick had our big umbrella and we were drenched from the waist down when we got there. But, it was a lovely session and a blessing to be there and serve as witness couple again. It was our second biggest group of returning missionaries, ever…..20! Two were young women and the rest young men. Only five were picked up by family this evening. The other fifteen live in outlying areas and therefore we had them for one more night. We have never had more than five or six spend the second night. So, after the ones leaving had gone, Dick and three of the missionaries got in the car and went half a mile down to the McDonalds to get dinner for 17 of us. That was a bill of about Q600 ($78) at a fast food place, but everyone needed to be fed. We all went into the kitchen at the Casa and set up tables and chairs and enjoyed the food.
Even though we were with this group only a few hours, bonds were formed. We love our time with the young missionaries! It is the best part!
After we ate I took a picture of a precious baby that reminds me of one of my Joyner grandchildren. Sorry to the rest of my grandchildren but I never see blue eyed--fair skinned--light haired babies here. Anyway, the baby was sweet.
One family had a 4 inch stack of pink and blue family names that they had been doing. The people at the Casa this time were from Nicaragua, a 19 hour bus trip each way. They always fill up 3, 4, or 5 buses, or more. Such faithful temple goers. It felt good to get back to the room and remove my wet shoes, skirt and blouse.
27 May 2010…..Thursday
Today Tyler is 12 years old! That is the end of the birthday blitz for May….all ten birthdays!
It took awhile to get all the missionaries on their way. The first left at 4 am for the airport to fly to the Peten to the north. Thank goodness they are adults and don’t require our presence to leave. Dick was outside with the rest when families arrived at the gate. Two were cousins from Sololá. Their proud grandparents, in native dress, were in the group that came for them. Five missionaries were from the same stake here in Guatemala. Father Lehi must find great joy in seeing his descendants serving in the temple and serving as missionaries.
Neil and Kathy Anderson (BYU professor), who spent nine months here and left in March, arrived today to attend a temple sealing on Saturday. They are staying with Tomkinsons. They brought two cans of hair spray that I can’t find here, and a box of See’s (we didn’t even request the candy). It was so good to see them again. Kathy came over this afternoon and we visited for three hours. Around 3 pm we felt a small earthquake. Tonight a group of us went to the Chinese restaurant for dinner.
Since there was rain and thunder going on I decided to shower a little earlier tonight because I didn’t want the power to go off and leave me un-rinsed. When there is no electricity our water is off because it is driven by an electric motor. As I was getting out of the shower I heard thunder….but it sounded weird so I thought maybe it was a plane taking off. It turned out to be Pacaya Volcano. It sounded like rain outside but when some of our friends checked they discovered small, pebbly, black ceniza from the volcano. Ceniza translates as ash but it is much heavier than ash and bigger particles than sand. We all collected baggies full and thought it was another interesting sideline of living in Guatemala. Dick washed off the Fillmore’s car because it was thick with cineza and it is not in a covered part of the garage.
He had to come in and shower and wash the stuff out of his hair. Then on the news we saw what havoc has been done. The people in the nearby villages were evacuated. They were bombarded by rocks being spewed out of Pacaya. There were people hiking the volcano, like we did in December 2008, and some were injured but right now there are no clear reports on TV. The airport and schools are closed.
Well Dick is watching the Lakers play the Suns, and Wayne, from Arizona, is also watching it across the hall. They are communicating by their raised voices and going to each other’s apartment to complain or brag. They are a great twosome….the biggest sports fans in the building.
28 May 2010…..Friday
It doesn’t look like any more ceniza has fallen since last night. The best term I have heard to describe it is “volcanic sand.” The nearby homes look like they have a fresh layer of asphalt on their roofs. We are 15-20 miles away from Pacaya Volcano. We had a U.S. Embassy “Warden Alert” this morning on our email. They are telling us to stay in our homes. Being obedient, I did. Dick went to the office. Further information today said that a reporter at Pacaya was killed by the rocks. Three children are missing. Sixteen hundred people were evacuated from the nearby villages. It looks like this week’s journal has become one of tragedy for the good people of Guatemala.
The cleaning up process has been interesting to watch with our apartment workers and the people living behind us. Of course, every home has hired help that does that kind of work for them. The rain of the gritty stuff has left the oleanders, Lily of the Nile, palm trees, and other shrubbery beaten down with a bad case of the droops. The power was off for a couple of hours, so no internet and it was raining and dark outside so I couldn’t see to practice my battery operated teclado or to read. So, I took a nap. Tonight we barbecued hamburgers on the Hatches balcony and enjoyed a meal together. Members of the area presidency (Clarkes and Martinos) joined us, too. It was a lovely gathering and so good to spend time together. We are always blessed by having general authorities at our meetings and to socialize with. We were inspired by beautiful words given by Elder Clarke about our individual service and some experiences they had in Honduras during the week. It wasn’t a “talk” but a sharing of experiences. Dick went across the hall later to watch a basketball game with Wayne.
29 May 2010…..Saturday
We have had rain all night. I don’t think we have seen the sun since Sunday or Monday. Yesterday we had another US Embassy “Warden Alert” about a tropical storm. It seems to be planted over Guatemala and we are expecting heavy rains in the next couple of days. Today was a stay at home day because it is move-out day at our home in Lancaster and we needed to stay by the computer so we could receive phone calls and answer questions. Most of our belongings were put in storage when we left in July 2008. However, we left some furniture for our YSA renters, plus patio furniture, and then “stuff” in the garage that wouldn’t fit in the storage unit. Jill and family, from Corona, were there, Jeff and family from Mission Viejo, and Mark and Maren from Phoenix. We are so grateful they are doing this huge task for us. Bishop Russell, who replaced Dick as bishop of Amargosa YSA Ward was there with three men from the ward. Jeff picked up a 24 foot Penske truck that Dick rented and Jill reserved another storage unit, but they ended up getting two more. Escrow is supposed to close on the 16th but we still don’t have the appraisal so we are concerned about that. We don’t want a low appraisal to kill the deal.
In California the rains come and the expensive homes slide down hills. In Guatemala rains come and it is the poorest of the people who lose their homes and their lives in the onslaught. As if Pacaya Volcano wasn't a big enough insult, Tropical Storm Agatha came to visit Guatemala and is wreaking havoc. El presidente de la republica has said there will be no religious services tomorrow. All of us senior missionaries had already determined that it would not be safe to go, especially where three of us attend our little branch in a hilly area. At this point 12 are dead and 11 missing and the worst is yet to come.
30 May 2010…..Sunday
The night passed peaceably. At least for us. It has been a calm morning…..still overcast but the sky is lighter and we had no rain in the morning hours. With all church meetings cancelled, we went across the hall to Tomkinsons and watched “Music and the Spoken Word” projected on the wall. Miraculously, the BYU channel has been in English for a week. Then we watched a DVD…..”Emma Smith, My Story.” It was excellent and a beautiful way to spend a Sunday morning, remembering the faith and the sacrifices of those who came before us, and recognizing our own faith and sacrifices of the past, the present, and the future.
At 2 pm we had lunch with Tomkinsons, Andersons and Tilleys. Rexene made clam chowder and I fried a bunch of shrimp. It was a perfect Sunday afternoon lunch, followed with brownie and ice cream sundaes. Andersons are supposed to fly back to Salt Lake on Tuesday but the word is that the airport will still be closed. We greatly enjoyed our relaxing meal and the wonderful visit.
It is 4 pm and we still haven’t had any more rain, though it is cloudy and we expect some at any time. Even a light rain can cause the already swollen earth to give way and cause hillsides to slide down, taking ramshackle houses and people with it. We actually had a little sun awhile ago, the first we have seen all week. We had a fireside scheduled for 4 pm but it was cancelled with all the other church meetings.
- 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.