Sunday, August 11, 2013

Filling up February

     In February we started the month with screenings.  Three of the orphanages are municipalidad or city day care schools.  These schools are the mayor's wife's special project and her goal is to educate these kids and keep them healthy and safe while their parents work.  The three schools are Los Patitos for children 2-7, Los Cedros for boys ages 7-14 and Las Rosas for girls ages 7-15.  If parents are fortunate to get their children in these schools, they can be educated for free from start to finish, but unfortunately there is a large turnover in the population, so most of the kids drop out somewhere along the way.  We don't have these children on a 6 month recall, because of the turn over in the population interrupts and so when we put them on automatic recall, they don't come because they might not still be in the school.  When that happens we waste time in the clinic waiting for kids who aren't coming.  Long story, but this means that we screen these kids usually twice a year; when we have treated all the kids, then we start all over again.  Remember that last month we screened the Los Patitos leaving with Los Cedros and Las Rosas.  It is interesting to see the kids at their schools.

 They come to us by class and are so happy to see us.  After their turn with the dentists the school gives them a prize, this time it was a sheet of stickers, Spiderman or Superman and for the girls, Dora or Hello Kitty, and as an added bonus, they go to recess until all the kids are finished.  The boys played basketball on not even a half court, with cement floors not using a real basketball.  It is a rough game, with all the boys playing without refs, but no one complains.  The girls like the free time, but just stand around and talk with their friends.  After we screened the Los Cedros boys we went to Tio Juan, the orphanage for boys, and it is a true orphanage with kids some of whom are truly orphans.  It is a large building which used to be a hospital. There are about 300 boys who live there ranging in age from 4 to 23.  They can stay there as long as they are in school.  The grounds are beautiful with lawns, gardens and sculptures.   Inside we stayed in the lobby mostly, but from there we could see a chapel, a patio with playground equipment, a peacock, benches and cafe tables and chairs, and a balcony which had marimbas which we couldn't see, but could hear.  Most of the kids play the marimbas and Tio Juan has even had boys tour in Europe with a marimba band.  The home was quiet and clean - a wonderful place for boys to be if they can't be in their own homes. Each week we contact the lady in charge of scheduling and she arranges to get those kids to the clinic. They come by bus or sometimes vans, and we always keep our fingers crossed that their bus doesn't break down or there isn't some strike or demontration that keeps the kids from getting there.
     On Friday, Wayne and Rich Call and Lee Ann traveled to Barrio San Lucas to teach the youth about dental hygiene and treatment.  They took a movie, toothbrushes, the monkey that squirts the audience while they watch.  They left at 5:30 or so for a meetong that was supposed to start at 7:00, and the kids actually showed up around 7:45. This ward is located near Guatemala City almost like a suburb of the city.  The people there are strong members of the church and they have a huge youth group.  Everyone seemed interested and entertained as well.
      We took a trip to El Salvador with the Richard and Anna Lee Johnson, Ralph and Jo Bowers, Kent and Teri James and Lee Ann Call.  It's a short and interesting trip of about three hours, but we got caught in road construction for about an hour.  Guatemala and El Salvador are separated by a river that carves a winding path through the mountains forming a beautiful valley of green.  On both sides are customs offices that we stopped at coming and going.  People swarmed our car to help us take our passports up to the counter for us.  They made it seem like it would help us get things done quicker, but it was just a matter of them standing in line or us and it took the same exact time.  We were leary to give our passports to strangers, so we stood in line for ourselves.  Others came to the car to beg, exchange money, or sell gum, food, or souvenirs.  We were glad to get out on the open road again.

The country was beautiful with fields of produce, villages with beautiful people and of course, volcanos on every horizon.  El Salvador, the capital was a busy city with slow traffic.  The city is old with crumbling buildings lining all the highways into the inner city.  Once in the middle the buildings are modern and beautiful with parks and gardens, shopping malls, food courts, restaurants and entertainment.  Elder James had a friend, Luis Arbiza, who met us and took us to dinner at Tony Romas. After dinner we all went to the temple, the highlight of the trip. We could see the temple out our hotel window outstanding as it contrasted with the landscape. With the bright white exterior walls it reflected the daylight and glowed in the daytime sun; then at night it shone with the light from within and the lights shining on it.  No one could miss the beauty and wonder what that building was.  We almost didn't get to go inside because Wayne couldn"t find his temple recommend.  It turned out that I had it in my temple bag and we finally discovered it a month later when we went to the temple in Guatemala City.  We asked the temple worker in San Salvador, who was working at the desk if he would call our mission president, Pres. Brough.  He told us that the temple president was the one to make that call, but he was in an interview.  So we waited impatiently watching the clock and hoping we would get in.When the temple president called, Pres. Brough gave us the okay and we quickly joined the session and sat in the last two chairs in the room. As I looked around the beautiful room with our friends and the rest of the lovely people.  I was filled with peace and gratitude for the privilege of being in the sacred temple that night.
In this picture we were trying to take a picture that would show the painting inside the doors in the reception area.  We asked if we could take a picture of it when we were inside, and we were not surprised when we were told no.  It's the beautiful painting from the October Liahona of Christ with two Lamanite boys standing  beside him.
     The next morning Luis was our tour guide and took us to see ruins only about 20 miles from the city of San Salvador.  These area called San Andres were first occupied in 900 BC and was called the valley of Zapotitas.  In 250 BC the caldera of Lago IIopango erupted and buried everything/  Gradually life resumed in the area and eventually became an area where cattle was raised and indigo was produced.  The area was buried again in 1658 when the Playon Volcano erupted and buried the area again.  As archeological study and excavations have worked in the area they have found pottery and evidence of the indigo dye production still intact because of the instant coverage.  Next we went to another Mayan ruin and saw the excavations. 

They look like large holes with buildings poking through the reddish soil.  The have found temples, homes, ball courts, stellas and statues and they are amazing, but they really start looking the same after a while.  Once I considered becoming an archealogist, but seeing these ruins makes me realize I would never have liked the slow, tedious, and dirty work.  Even though I am sure I would never have enjoyed the digging in the dirt, I sure would like to find one of the beautiful pots or bowls we have seen.  Some of the missionaries say they have been in homes were the people have relics in their homes and don't really pay any attention to their value.  In one home the family was using this beautiful statue as a doorstop and had no idea it was a treasure.  We

went through the small museum

then through an area where people had spread a blanket on the grass and displayed their authentic?Mayan treasures. They had pottery, jewelry, figurines, beads and musical instruments and told stories about their ancestors, the Mayans. I bought a couple of dishes and the Mayan story teller gave me a small obsidian rock.

Next we went with Luis's daughter and her friend to a place called Boca de Diablo,  It was a long drivea and we really didn't know where they were taking us, but it turned out to be a beautiful view of the city of San Salvador.  They took us to a roadside restaurant famous for its "papusas." They are like a taco, except they are thick flour folded over chicken or beef with cheese.  They were served with, mildly spicey tomato sauce, and pickled, hot spicey tomato sauce. We climbed up to a vista point and took pictures of the city below, but it was smoggy and hazey, so the pictures aren't very clear.  There alot of industry in the city, but it is hazey because of volcanic ash. We have the same thing here in Guatemala City, but you have to add all the exhaust fumes from the million buses. 

We had another visiting dentist and his wife volunteer, Dr. Francis Alder and his wife Darlene from Vancouver, Washington.  They both spoke Spanish having served for three years as mission president in Chili.  They were so warm and friendly, we felt they were the perfect fit to come to the clinic as fulltime missionaries, but Dr. Alder's mother was aged and not well, so they didn't think they could do it.  Since they returned home, his mother died and they were called as a temple president.

Two other volunteers also came during February:  Dr. Brian Torian from Utah and his friend Jim Smith.  Jim Smith served a mission in Guatemala not long ago over security.  He is a colorful guy with a reputation for talking to everyone and striking amazing bargains with anyone.  We had Jim and Brian over for dinner one evening and were entertained by the stories he told in his Utah twang.  Jim isn't a dental assistant, but he worked with Brian and they made a good team, even though Jim is a bit hard of hearing.  He learned quickly and kept us laughing.

Of course, we treated the CCM missionaries, as usual.  Wayne and I were screening one elder when Wayne noticed his nametag wasn't like all the other elders'.  Looking closer, Wayne realizedhis tag was the old style that hadn't been used for many years. When he asked the elder about it, Elder Gonzales explained that it was his father's nametag from his father's mission 27 years ago.  It turned out that Elder Gonzalez needed to come into the clinic for treatment, so Wayne asked him to bring both nametags so we could take a picture.

  February brought baseball to the Little League stadium next door to our clinic.  As we were leaving for the day we saw kids coming in their uniforms with their bat resting on their shoulders ready for practice.  I love to go to the fence and watch them running laps or playing catch.  Seeing them brings back memories of the thousands of baseball and softball games we attended over the years with all our kids.  One day I took  pictures of some of the little kids playing catch??? with the coach.  It's amazing to watch the kids and coaches doing the same drills and practice routines I watched my kids doing year after year. And little kids playing ball in Guatemala just like they do in thew U.S. Just like home, but in Spanish! 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

January 2013

A New Year
Catching up on a blog is hard to do, but I am determined to record as much of our mission as I can.  In our old age, we'll need something to remind us. (Wait a minute, we're already in our old age and we definately need a reminder.)
New Years Eve was another night of amazing fireworks; they only lasted until midnight and we were able to sleep most of the night from then on.  Starting the new year off right, we left the next day for a remote site visit to one of our favorite places: Solola on Lake Atitlan.  We took a volunteer dentist, his wife, hygenist and his assistant with us and treated 198 patients in the three days we were there.  Dr. Ryan Brown is a pedodontist and treated most of the children who came in Solola.  They come into the makeshift clinic a little bit afraid, but Dr. Brown and his staff really put them at ease.  They laugh and smile and then the mood changes.

In Arizona, Dr. Brown has a general anesthesia room where the kids basically sleep through the treatment.  He can get the work done quickly there, and the kids wakeup with no trauma.  In our remote site clinic, he can't do that.  He still worked quickly but just with shots.  In five minutes he could extract all the bombed baby teeth that needed to be removed, but the kids would be hysterical.  They weren't in pain, but Dr. Brown removed them so fast it was like an act of violence.  The kids were screaming and had to be held down by the Doc and his whole staff.  That is not the way the rest of us regular dentists operate, and it was stressful working with him.  The screaming  upset the other children and their parents who were waiting in the hall.  He really cleared the room in one way or the other.

Two of our favorite things about Solola are the the Tanners.  President Tanner is the Branch President of the Solola Branch.  He has eveything ready for us when we get there.  He has helpers for sterilization, the room all set up, the patients scheduled, music and best of all FOOD!  They get up early to have breakfast for us at 7:30, and I don't mean they fix cold cereal.  They have homemade cinnamon rolls, ham and eggs, and juice for us for us.  Every morning we have a hearty and delicious breakfast and a wonderful lunch as well.  We always hire someone to fix our lunch and breakfast for us for three days so we don't have to leave the clinic to eat, but the Tanners really feed us well. Cooking isn't the only thing we enjoy about the Tanners.  They are cheerful, happy and helpful.  They did all this work for us while Sis. Tanner was packing for a trip to her daughter's house in Canada where she was going to take care of the children while her daughter had a baby.  On the last day we worked, the baby was born and we were among the first to see her via email.
 After three days of work, we cleaned up the building, packed up all our supplies and loaded all the equipment into the cars. One night we saw the  sun setting behind the volcano as we were leaving the clinic. 

On the last day we worked we took a tuk tuk over to the neighboring town, Panajachel for dinner.  We chose the restaurant we ate at because they had a guy there who played the marimba.  Unfortunately he didn't show up that night, but Wayne and Anna Lee saved the day by playing "Chopsticks" for us.  Everyone in the place seemed to enjoy the entertainment - at least they all clapped.  The food was great too.

After dinner, we decided to just browse through the town and look at all the people and what they are selling.  When they see Americans, the people surround you and display all their "stuff."  They drape tablecloths, shirts, scarves, blouses, jewelry and everything on their shoulders, backs and arms so they can display it.  If you show the least little bit of interest, they will follow you for blocks. If they see you look at a red one, whatever it is, they will send a child or another person to find five more red ones.  They tell you: "Good price! Just for you!" "Buy for my sick baby!" "I need for my school." and many more.  Once you get over the guilt for not buying, it is really fun to bargain.
 We got up early on the next day before we left to enjoy the Hotel Atitlan with its exquisite gardens, gift shop, dining room, and views of the volcano

When we returned to the capital, it was work in the clinic as usual and then screening the Latin missionaries.  Elder Call noticed one Elder who was missing a molar and then had another tooth that was loose.  He wondered why he had a loose tooth and asked if he had had an injury or something.  The Elder said he didn't know why it was loose or why the other tooth got loose and then just fell out.  Dr. Call took xrays and saw a large dark area under the tooth in the bone.  He suspected a tumor or a cyst and sent him to an oral surgeon to see what was going on.  It turned out to be a cyst that was dissolving the bone and that is why he was losing teeth.  Eventually Elder Ardon had to have surgery to drain the cyst and had to stay here in the city so he could be near the doctor and the clinic for follow-up visits.  After three months his jaw healed thoroughly and he had a partial denture to replace the four teeth he lost.  When first seen, his jaw bone was so thin, he had a "glass jaw" which could have been shattered in a minor blow to his jaw.  In a basketball game, for example, he could
have been bumped, broken and left deformed.  Elder Call felt like he was inspired to investigate that loose tooth which eventually saved that missionary a future of deformity and pain.  It was one of the reasons we are here in Guatemala.

That was one of the positive experiences we have had in the clinic.  Another event tells a different story.  We had one elder in and extracted 4 wisdom teeth.  This was the work of  Dr. Johnson, our resident expert on extraction.  He's a master!  Wisdom teeth extraction is one of the main things required by these missionaries.  We take Xrays to determine if they need to come out or they can stay.  The determination is based on whether they will cause a problem for the elder on his mission.  In this particular group of missionaries there was a sister who had been to some amount of dental school in Guatemala and decided she should comfort and advise the other patients after they got back to the CCM from the clinic.  Sis. Nicolayson, the CCM president's wife was hearing complaints from many patients.  They had been told by this sister misionary that things were done wrong, and she recommended her own remedies for them.  One elder who had 4 teeth extracted went to Sis. Nicolayson and said he was in pain from having 8 teeth extracted without his permission.  When Sis Nicolayson called, Dr. Johnson recommended a pain medicine and then received a call that he was having further problems because he was allergic to the medicine he took.  He didn't mention his allergy to us nor did he write about it on his consent to treat form,  He was threatening to sue and he continued to complain about his treatment until two things happened.  First, he healed beautifully without pain, and second, his mother said he needed to decide if he wanted to go on a mission or not, because he couldn't go on a mission if he was involved in a law suit.  Eventually he admitted he had exaggerated and even lied about his pain.  He was sorry and apologized. A victim of "Herd Hysteria."

Fortunately we were able to see many children from the municipalidad this month.  They are children from the city day care centers, who come to school early in the morning and spend the day so their parents can go to work as vendors on the streets. It was cold in the clinic because our waiting room is open air.
We have lovely fleece blankets made by Relief Society sisters in the U.S. so the kids come in and wrap up.  They love the cozy, warm blankets.  Some want to take them home, but we tell them they can use them when they come the next time.
After their treatment they were excited to receive their rewards - a new toothbrush and a monkey or a little car  from the sweet sisters from Downey III Ward Relief Society.


              One Saturday we had a half-day field trip to a place called Mixco Viejo, a nearby ruin of a Poqomam city and ceremonial site destroyed by the Spanish in 1525.  We left Guatemala City on a bus and traveled up, up and up into the mountains where this city was built on the top of a mountain plateau surrounded by steep cliffs and deep ravines on all sides.  Our guide said it was built there to be defenseable in  case of invasion.  There was only one entrance to the city and that was through a pathway carved through the rocks like a open tunnel.  It was amazing to see the carvings and the buildings, but unfortunately it was a steep climb to see the pyramid and the ball courts, and I decided not to try to hike down the narrow rocky paths. I stayed up at the top and enjoyed the view and found two pieces of obsidian.

On the last day of January, we went to Los Patitos for the annual screening of all the children.  We set up chairs for ourselves and the staff brings in the chhildren class by class.  These children range in age from 3 - 7.  While Wayne and the other dentists look in the mouth, the assistants write down the findings on a roll sheet.  We rank the children according to their needs.

 1 means they have urgent need with decay in permanent teeth and they will be the first children scheduled to come to the clinic.  2 means they have lots of decay in only baby teeth probably because they only have baby teeth.  3 means they have decay in some teeth, but not a huge amount, and 4 means they need fluoride treatment and brushing education.  We will be sceduling the children from this list until it is completed in about 6 months. It was interesting to see the school and the children in their daily setting.

Wall painting at Los Patitos - The Little Ducks

Sunday, May 12, 2013

December Days

As I finally begin my December blog, I remembered an important event from the month of November.  We treat the children from eight orphanages, three of them are sponsored by Guatemala City, or the municipalidad.  The mayor's wife, Patricia Arzu, has a special interest in the children in the city. She sponsored a recognition luncheon for people who help the children, and she invited the three dental couples.  It was held at the Children's Museum and began with a program featuring children.
A choral group from Zone 18, one of the poorest and toughest parts of the city, performed and sang Christmas songs without accompaniment but with  choreography. It was obvious those girls loved to sing and loved their director.
Next was a children's band made up of boys ranging in age from eight to eighteen.  Some of the kids were good musicians and they all played well, but the most entertaining was one little guy who played the big bass drum.  He couldn't even see over his drum and could hardly be seen either, so he stood sideways. Then the mayor's wife came on stage and gave an appreciation speech and handed out door prizes.  I was really impressed with her as she spoke of service to the children as service to God.  

After the program we went outside to the grounds of the museum where a marimba band played and a luncheon was served.  It was beautiful music, typico food, and a perfect day. The mayor's wife came and personaly thanked us and posed with us for a picture.  The landscaping around the museum was interesting with pathways winding around mounds of grass covering something possibly ruins.  They made navigation and table arrangement kind of tricky, but those hills are Mayan ruins that haven't been excavated or restored yet.

              Another important part of the month was a trip to Melchor de Mencos, located on the border of Guatemala and Belize.  Origanally we were going into Belize because there was a large group of young men and women who needed dental exams and treatment to prepare for their missions.  As we made contact with the Belize government to get visas and permission to enter the country and practice dentistry there, we finally decided not to go.  They required receipts for all the equipment and supplies that we took into the country, so they could tax it.  Then we were told that we would have to pay a fee to leave also.  Almost all our compressors, generators, chairs and X-ray equipment and supplies are donated, so we couldn't present the receipts even if we were willing to pay the fees to enter and leave.  We decided to stay in Guatemala in Melchor de Menco, on the border.  Patients from Belize just had to cross over a bridge to get there.  We were joined by three dentists who were member of a volunteer group called "Hershey Smiles."  On Sunday we went to church and had fun listening to the talks. Our group was very large with six dentist and wives and another couple for security. Since the chapel was overflowing,  the members insisted that we sit while they stood.  Afterward, we decided that their chapel wasn't large enough to be the clinic so we headed to another LDS church building a couple of blocks away and set up there.  We worked Monday through Wednesday.  Monday morning was supposed to be reserved for the Belize group of 16, but they were late and rather than sit around, we decided to treat anyone who came. People in the neighborhood trickled in at first, maybe a bit skeptical, but soon we had a line out the door waiting.  The next two days we were greeted by a large group of people when we got there in the morning.  On Wednesday afternoon we told those who were still waiting that we could only treat their two worst problems.  It is hard for me to see that, because they want to get rid of pain, so we pull a tooth in the back of the mouth and ignore the obvious cavities in the front.  But they don't care because it's free and they aren't hurting anymore.  That evening when we finished loading all the equipment, we were starving and headed to Pollo Express for chicken, coleslaw and French fries.  While we were eating, people came up to us and asked, "Are you the dentists?"  "Can you help my son?"  We told them we had just finished, but we would be back in six months or so.  They were disappointed, but said they would wait.
     We left there and went home by way of Tikal, the most famous Mayan archeological site in Guatemala located in the far Northeast of the country.  Tikal was the largest Mayan city of about 100,000 people and existed from about 300 to 900 AD.
No one knows what happened that this site was abandoned, but theories include drought, wars, disease and other guesses.  Now there are hundreds of the mysterious mounds covering ruins with only a small part restored including five temples and stellas and a central plaza area with altars for sacrifices and ceremonies.
We hired a tour guide to take us around and show us the sites and tell us about what we were seeing.  The highlight for me was when we were in the plaza, a Mayan family was there worshipping.  They layed their fire makings which took at least half an hour. They had corn, honey, candles of six different colors and other things that we couldn't see well enough to know what they were.

When they finally finished, they lit the fire and a Mayan lady chanted prayers from a large book.  I think some or a lot of the liquid she poured on was alcoholic because it went up fast.    These are some of the pix I sneaked during the preparation; we were asked not to take any during the prayer.
     On one of the temples there are stairs going up to the top, but no one is allowed to go up there anymore sine someone fell and died.  But on one of the other temples they have built a scaffolding with stairs and rails to take people up safely.  I was impressed that only a small part of theis city has been restored, and our guide explained, that keeping the jungle from overgrowing the city again is a huge task.  So restoring and maintaining the Tikal site is expensive.  We stayed in a hotel with mosquito netting although we were there when the nets weren't necessary.  At night and in the early morning we heard the howling monkeys, but we never saw one.  The same with the quetzal birds, we heard them but only in the diatance.  I wonder if they have a recorded sound track they play.  We also did not see the famous jaguars.  In the afternoon a group of us decided to take a bus to another ruin, Yakha, about an hour's drive away on a lake.  Half way into the trip through the jungle we were stopped by road construction and we were told that we could pass in about 45 minutes.  This road was not the best and definately not safe to travel after dark which it would have been on our trip back if we waited, so we turned around and drove back.  They said they couldn't return our entrance fee because it had already been picked up, so they gave us a ticket to the small museum instead.
     When we left, we decided to go home by way
of Coban because Anna Lee had heard about an apron tienda there.  We got lost on the way and ended up making the trip longer.  We had to take a ferry across the river which was another part of the adventure, a long wait, but a short ride.  On the other side we were near Coban.  As always we see beautiful scenery along the way and drive through little towns along the way where people are selling or shopping on market days.  I love to see the children and the fruitstands.  In Coban we parked, jumped out of the cars and headed different directions to help Anna Lee on her quest for the mystical apron.  No one knows exactly what she's looking for, so not surprisingly, we didn't find one, and sadly, neither did she.  We headed back to the city empty handed.
     Dec 12

The Primary President asked me if I would teach her to make Christmas cookies.  I said I would and asked her where and when would be good. Of course, she doesn't speak very much English and I speak even less Spanish, so after a minute or two I realized she was asking me to teach the Primary children how to make Christmas cookies.  I decided to make the sugar cookie dough and different colored frosting at home so the kids could get started right away.  I also made peanut butter cookie dough so the kids could also make the chocolate kiss cookies while they were waiting for the rolling pins and the cookie cutters. We met on a Wednesday afternoon at the church and about 20 kids came along with about 8 moms.  We washed hands and got started.  Some of the kids were more interested in eating the dough than making cookies.  One problem that we had was that we only had one oven and so we got behind on the baking part.  Eventually everyone made about 6 cookies, and the moms baked the remaining dough and took home the extras.

 We kept up the Wilcox Christmas caroling tradition when we took the sister missionaries to five homes in their areas.  It is amazing to go into the homes and see the way they live.  The have simple furniture usually only a table and chairs in the kitchen and more wooden chairs in the living room if they have one.  One family was having abirthday party in their home/tienda. We visited one crippled old man and his grandsons.  He was very happy to see us.  He asked about some of his friends at church since he was no longer able to attend.  Everyone joined in the singing and we all felt a little Christmas spirit.
   We were invited to a Christmas Posada at the home of a family named Duran.  He is a church employee and his wife and he are from Chile.  They have four sons; three are married living in Japan, Chile and Florida, and the 4th is a student at BYU.  They live in a highrise in a beautiful apartment.  They collect nativity scenes from all over the world and I bet they had 50 in their home.  Bro. Duran had built a replica of Jerusalem and then had a huge nativity scene as part of it.  When everyone finally arrived, (we made the mistake of arriving on time and waited for over an hour for the rest of the people who follow Guatemalan Standard Time).  Sis. Duran brought out four large boxes of scarves, belts, hats and tunics and spread them out on tables.  Then Bro. Duran assigned a role from the nativity to each person.  Everyone went up and created beautiful costumes for themselves with the stuff gathered on the table.  Then as Bro. Duran read the scriptures, everyone acted out  his part in the Christmas story.  Another way to remember the Savior and the true meaning of Christmas.
   At home, we bought an artificial Christmas tree and decorated it with ornaments and bows.  But the favorite part of our Christmas decoration was the chartruse green tinsel tree that Dave and Jenny (our son and daughter-in-law) sent us.  It was about the size of a pizza pan on the bottom, but then spirialed up three feet to the top where it hooked on a pole that ran up the middle.  All our visitors thought it was fantastic.
     During the month of December, we saw firework stands along the streets, and heard fireworks in the evenings and early mornings. But on Christmas Eve we had a fireworks show extraordinaire! We had been told about the fireworks by many people, but we were surprised and amazed.  It started at midnight and lasted until 2:00am with steady, constant fireworks.  Some were small and on the ground like our family 4th of July fireworks, but most were Disneyland-like.  They would rocket to a height above our building and then burst into sparkling, multi-colored stars.  They weren't just one after another, but five or ten at a time in every direction and as far as we could see on the distant surrounding hills.
     We invited the sister missionaries over for Christmas dinner.  Sis, Perez is from Mexico and had

never had dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes or pumpkin pie, so she was really excited and pleased with her first U.S. Christmas dinner.  Her family would have been eating tamales. Sis. Bates is from Wyoming so for her it was tradition and I think she was pleased.  As we talked about gifts we learned that Sis. Bates had received a package from home, but Sis. Perez had nothing.  I went scrounging and found several items which I was happy to donate as gifts to her.   Later that night we had another Christmas dinner of the leftovers from all who live in our apartments.  We had tons to eat just from food that wouldn't fit into people's refrigerators.