Friday, November 23, 2012

Five Months Today

     I can hardly believe we have been in Guatemala for five months.  We are adjusting still.  Everyone asks me how my Spanish is coming and I have to say I am better.  When I go to church, I understand what is being said about 80% of the time.  If I ask Wayne about what was said, I can get back on course.  Speaking is a different story.  In the clinic I try to make conversation with the patients.  The problem is that I ask my questions and then they answer with a rapid and lengthy response.  I'm often not sure exactly what they said, so we look at each other blankly, and I pray that Wayne will get back to the chair to rescue me.
      The clinic where we work in the city is located on the grounds of the orphanage called Mi Casa.  This orphanage is only for girls age 7 through 25.  Most of the kids leave when they are 18, but they are allowed to stay as long as they are going to school.  These girls have families and they go home sometimes for holidays and vacations.  Right now it is vacation so most of the girls are gone until January.  Sadly there are still many still here and I'm not sure why they didn't go home.  They are bored because they don't have school.  When we drive into the orphanage, the girls all wave and greet us.  Several run along beside the cars and help carry our lunch pails and backpacks.  They help set the chairs up in the waiting room and would stay there the whole day if they were allowed.  When the kids from the other orphanages come, they first watch an educational video and then they get to choose from the movies we have (mostly Disney).  The Mi Casa girls love to come in or climb into the windows to watch too.  I thought you might like to see these darling girls.
     We had some boys for Los Cedros, ages 7 through 15, come in the other day.  We saw three boys who just reminded me of grandsons.  They are handsome, bright, athletic, and funny.  These three boys were 11 and 12 years old, and they are best friends.  They live together and go to school together and play futbol together; more like brothers than friends.  Two of the boys had perfect teeth and we just cleaned and fluorided them.  The third kid, David, had several cavities and an extraction.  His friends came in to watch and cheer him and we told them about our son David, whose nickname was "Dave the Brave."  We told them that they should call their friend "Dave the Brave," because he was so courageous while he was having his tooth pulled.
     This little boy was so cute.  He loved playing with my "Five Little Monkeys."  These monkeys have stiff tails so they can hang from the light, and they have velcro patches on their hands so they can dance and hug and hold hands.  All the little kids love them.  At first I was afraid that they would think that I was giving the monkeys to them, but they knew that they were mine and that I was just lettings them play with them.  They really are a valuable distraction for the kids.

     We went back to Teleman on another remote site visit.  This time we took a different route to get there and went to a town called Rio Dulce.  We stayed at a beautiful hotel on the river called Vinas del Lago and enjoyed relaxing and eating our meals at their outdoor, poolside  restaurant.  They had a small zoo there with some beautiful parrots, two monkeys, several pizotes, two raccoons, and some turtles.  I spent quite awhile trying to get a picture of the monkeys.  The blond monkey was shy and went into its little house the minute it noticed anyone near.  The other monkey ran around the cage so fast that I could get one end or the other. but not a good shot of him.  I think he enjoyed performing for spectators and would take a slightly different route every time around the cage.  Once, when I went to look at the animals, the caretaker was cleaning the cages and feeding the animals.
      On Friday afternoon after we checked in to our hotel and drove out through this beautiful area with rolling hills and valleys.  Brahma cattle grazed in the fields and all the houses had gardens and some were on the edge of large plantations.  Everything was green and the whole area reminded me of Oregon except that the temperature was around 80 degrees.
We drove through this beautiful area to a small farm called Finca El Paraiso.  After a short hike along a stream where kids were playing and their moms did the washing we reached our destination:  a wide waterfall falling about 30 feet from a hot springs and into a pond.  We swam across the pond, stood on the rocks, and enjoyed a warm and strong shower.  Afterwards we went back to the hotel, showered, ate dinner and then played Mexican Train until the mosquitoes arrived.
     The next morning we got up early and headed to the dock just down the hill and headed out on Lake Izabel where our boat and our tour guide was waiting for us.  In a few minutes we were on the Rio Dulce and saw the Castillo do San Felipe de Lara which was built as a fortress to guard the entrance to the river. At one time it was used as a prison and now is just a tourist attraction in a park.
     We traveled along the river headed to the Caribbean Sea and saw some interesting sites along the way.  As we traveled under the bridge in Rio Dulce we saw many huge beautiful yachts bearing names and locations from many of the states back home.  We were surprised how few boaters, skiers and sailors we saw, but we saw beautiful birds and flowers along the way.  We went into a small lagoon where we saw three small canoes paddled by children approaching us.
Their boats were filled with hand made wood carvings, spoon, bowls, key chains, etc.  They were firm on their slightly high prices and would not barter.  We bought a couple of things, but as soon as they saw we were not going to pay their prices, they took off to surround the next boat.  Why weren't those children in school?

     Next we went to a place called Ak-tenekmet, a school for local children.  We didn't see any kids there because we came on a Saturday.  We did go into their camp and saw the school and the place where they eat.  It's very old, dirty and primitive, but if the children learn it's a blessing.  It is staffed by a director and volunteers from all over the world who come to Guatemala to work for months or years.
The interesting part of the camp was a dental boat which belonged to Rotary.  It is manned by volunteer dentists who come down to work for weeks.  The boat goes to villages along the river and treats people who can't get to or afford dental care.  No dentists were there when we came to check it out, but we went into the treatment area to see what was there.
     Next we went to the mouth of the river as it flowed into the Caribbean Sea to a town called Livingston on the north side of the river.  This town, only accessible by boat, is very small with the people there as the main attraction.  They are of the Garifuna culture, only found in Livingston and in Honduras.  They are a mix of Black survivors of a wrecked Spanish slave ship from Nigeria, Arawakan Indians from Brazil, and Mayans. They called themselves "Black Caribs" and lived in a small remote area during the 1700's.  There are about 4,000 Garifuna still living in Livingston.  We ate lunch at a small restaurant called the The Happy Fish and walked through the village.  We didn't hear their music or chanting or see anyone dancing in their West African style.  Maybe that's only part of the night life.  We did see several pelicans and saw a couple of dock workers wearing reggae hats, but nothing that made us suspect voodoo or cannibalism, two of the legends associated with Livingston.
     After the recreation was over then it's was time for work.  On Sunday morning we loaded up and headed to Teleman.  This time we traveled a different route to get there, and the road was bumpy. curvy, and narrow, but not scary or dangerous.  We drove through beautiful country and stopped for church at a small branch along the way. We all took our Spanish hymn books, but were surprised when they sang in Kekchi.  Everyone was very friendly, and they made an announcement inviting them to come to Teleman for dental work, and many made the hour-long bus trip the next day.  We continued on through the Polochic Valley and arrived at the Teleman Branch just about the time their meetings were ending so we had lots of help setting up all the chairs, sterilization, education, etc. so we would be ready early Monday morning.
     We had a visiting dentist and his wife helping on this trip, Brent and Janet Harris from Ohio.  They had been in the clinic for about three days before our trip and had stayed in our building, so we got to know them pretty well, and  they were delightful.  We were hoping they would come on a mission and serve with us in Guatemala, but they are already committed to a mission call in Ohio at the Bishop's Storehouse and felt they needed to stay there.  Janet and I were friends instantly and I hope we'll see them again someday.
     We also had the Spradlins and their daughter Natalie helping.  The Spradlins are missionaries in the area and Natalie was visiting them from the states.  Natalie took over the job of sterilization which makes a tremendous difference in our efficiency.  We just take her all the dirty instruments and then pick up a new tray with clean ones.  That is amazingly helpful and helped us treat more patients. We also had two darling girls from Utah, Ashley and Cassara, who were just on a humanitarian trip by themselves in Guatemala and heard about our clinic and offered their help.  They took over the job of giving fluoride treatments to all the children and again sped up the process allowing us to treat more patients.  Stace and Jacque Kirk, senior missionaries over safety joined us and spent their time adjusting and repairing the compressors and entertaining and controlling the people waiting to be seen. Together we were able to treat 189 people.
     We made a special trip to the hotel where we stayed the last time to invite the owner to come.  She came the last time and got there at noon and we already had 50 people at the door so they turned he away.  This time she came with her four boys and they had plenty of work to be done.  We treated the youngest boy and the mom, but the three boys who needed it the most refused to open their mouths out of fear of the injection.  They agreed to have their teeth fluorided and that's all.  On the other hand we have little kids who jump in the chair and just cooperate to the fullest.  Dr. Johnson had one patient, an old lady, who had 27 teeth pulled.  I wanted to tell those cowardly boys to go check out what will surely happen to them, but we didn't.  It would have embarrassed the lady, and it probably would have scared the boys more.
     On the way home we traveled out of the valley the shorter way, but along the dangerous road.  It winds through the heights over the river far below.  It is so narrow that when cars and huge trucks meet someone has to yield.  The views are beautiful, but the ride is hair raising.  We hit one bump that made the car dramatically and suddenly list, making me bump my head on the window.  I actually had a knot there for a day or two.  I doubt if the shorter route saves time because we have to drive so slowly.  I will strongly advise against that route again.
     One of the major events of the last month was a traffic accident we were involved in.  Wayne wasn't driving, but we were passengers in the back seat.  We were stopped at a light, the light changed to green and as we entered the intersection, we saw a motorcycle come flying from the right.  We stopped, but the motorcycle's handlebar clipped the front headlight and caused the motorcycle to go down.  A passenger on the bike went flying and was taken to the hospital.
The rest of us waited at that intersection for over an hour while the police took information and we waited for the lawyer from the insurance company to come.  Dr Johnson was taken to the police station where the drivers of the motorcycle and our car were arrested. Then we went to the hospital to see the condition of the motorcycle passenger, and then we went to the courthouse for a judge to determine what should be done.  Bond was set and both drivers were released, but forbidden to drive, or leave the country, and told that a trial date would be sent to them.  Meanwhile both the motorcycle and the car were impounded and kept as evidence in the case.  We we told by Jorge, who is in charge of the mission cars, that when and if we ever get the car back, it will probably be stripped.   The accident happened at about 6:15 and we finally got home 1:00 AM.
     We got back in the routine when we returned and treated the orphans trying to get their work done before they go home for the months of  November and December.  School's out for those months
so we have fewer patients then.  Some of the children who are true orphans stay, but most are gone.  The ones left at Mi Casa love to come to the clinic and "help" us, and they do to a certain point.  They carry our things from the car, or take out the trash, and open the gates for us, but they also love to dance, play games on my phone, watch movies, blow up patient gloves, etc.  At some point, we have to send them outside until the next day.  They are really bored when school is not in session.
     Halloween is not a big deal in Guatemala.  We started a "Boo Activity" in our building that was about the only celebration we saw at all.  We filled a small bag with stickers, candy and a small pumpkin and left it with instructions to hang a notice on their door stating that they had been booed and then they should pass it on.  Everyone quickly played the game and within a week every door had a "Boo" sign hanging on their door.  Jenny sent us all the stuff including a small ghost cookie cutter, so on Halloween, I made sugar cookies with mini chocolate chips for the eyes and put some at every door.

     So long til next post.  Don't forget us - we remember those we left behind every day.  Elder and Sister Wilcox

Note:  I believe we forgot to post a blog that we had written in mid-September.  I am re-posting it just in case.  Look at the previous ones to see.  Thanks


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Middle of the night - Sleepless

     It's the middle of the night and I'm sleepless in Guatemala City so I decided to add to our blog.  We have had some interesting experiences since I last wrote, and I don't want to forget them.  The senior missionaries were invited to go on a fieldtrip to Santa Lucia to go with Pres. Mask and his wife and Manual, his long-time guide to a museum and to see the Lehi stone.  Pre. Mask is the Guatemalan Temple President and was going home to the U.S. so this would be the last opportunity to go with him.  He and his wife served missions in Guatemala back when they were young missionaries.  He became interested in the theories about Central America being the site of the Book of Mormon events, and has spent years researching and exploring.  His wife and he have taken tour groups and scholars around the country for years, so they know an amazing amount of information.  Manuel is a Mayan who speaks English well and adds information about his culture and history as well as information about the towns and volcanoes and the civil war.
     We traveled on an air conditioned bus with a PA system so the Masks could narrate all along the way.  We were constantly looking from side to side to see the beauty of the country.  We saw five different volcanoes including Fuego which was still smoking.  When we arrived at the museum of artifacts found in the area around Santa Lucia, we just wandered through at first looking at the pottery, arrowheads, the stone carvings, and the rubbings.  I have taken pictures of the stones and I suppose they are so commonplace that everyone is tired of them.  We asked why there are so many, and Pres. Mask explained that carving on stone was a way of preserving history as well as a way to reverence their gods and beliefs.  While we were in Honduras in Copan, we saw statues that showed all the Mayan Kings passing a baton from one to the next.
Baton passed.
Our guide pointed out the way to identify each king by his dress, jewelry, features or weapons etc.  We saw others stones that depicted victories in games and also in wars.  Here in Santa Lucia the stones were of animals and of individuals except with the Lehi Stone which showed a man standing in the midst of carvings and symbols.  It made me think of the symbols we used to study in cub scouts when we were talking about American Indians.  For example, I recognized the symbol for the water depicted like waves.  Pres. Mask explained the significance of it as it related to Lehi who traveled across the sea.  There was a rope which fell from his skirt that lead to an area on the stone in the shape of a "U."  The "U" is the symbol for the womb.  Inside the "U" were symbols for his children.  It was amazing to learn about the symbols because they brought meaning to what we had looked at as just a beautiful carving.
     The man who owned the museum told us about an iguana farm nearby. so when we left the museum we hiked a short distance to see the farm.  We asked why they raised iguanas and were told that the people eat them.  No thank you!  I guess they also sell them for pets also.  No thank you again!  We climbed up about twenty steps up the side of a wall.  When we got to the top of the wall we looked down into an enclosure that looked like a room with a dirt floor surrounded by ten foot cement walls.  There were six "rooms" but only one had iguanas in it - about 50.  They were just clustered in one area overlapping each other.  Wayne shook his keys and a couple looked us and one large one flared his fleshy collar and flicked out his tongue.
     Then we headed out to the field.  On the way we went through the town and waited for the guardds who would accompany us.  We met in a busy intersection and waited for about ten minutes deliberately so that everyone would know that we were protected by armed guards.  Then we drove for about five minutes, hikes for about fifteen and then we were at the stone.  We couldn't believe how this beautifully carved stone that weighed more than a ton was just out in a field.  The sugar cane was ten to twelve feet high and was slightly dried making the leaves razor sharp, so we followed each other at a short distance so we didn't get whipped in the face by the backlash from the person ahead of us.  We didn't see any poisonous snakes or robbers, but we were attacked by biting or stinging ants.  I was wearing sandals so by the time we got to the stone, by feet and ankles were on fire.  I couldn't believe how anxious we were to leave after we had been so excited to go and see the stone.  We waited our turn for a picture and then we hurriedly walked to the road.  We were walking with the guide when he reached down and picked up a small piece of shiny black obsidian flat on one side and beveled on the other.  The guide said it looked like a broken knife blade.  He gave it to us and I will treasure and souvenier of our trip to the Lehi Stone.
     Then we traveled to the Hotel La Reunion in Antigua for lunch.  This is the hotel where we stayed when we were new in the mission.  Since we were there  Fuego had erupted and La Reunion had been evacuated, so we were interested to see if there had been any damage.  We were happy to learn that everything was still undisturbed, just lush shades of green from the manicured golf course blending into the surrounding tropical forest, and then overlooked by two volcanoes in the distance.  We ate lunch on the patio reserved for our group.  The waiters served us our hamburguesas and papas fritas like they were serving prime rib to the queen of England.
     We thought the trip was over and we were heading back to the city, when Pres. Mask announced a small detour.  We drove along a narrow, windy road through small towns - one town seemed to specialize in shoes and boots because all along the way we saw shops with signs advertizing and windows displaying cowboy boots, sandals, dress shoes in all sizes. Along the road we saw coffee fields and hot houses where they grew long stemmed roses shipped all over the world.  In Guatemala City street vendors walk in between the lanes of traffic selling a dozen roses in a rainbow of colors for 35quetz.
     Finally we arrived at our destination.  It's a recreation area called Los Aposentos where there is a small man-made lake where people visit to play.  There were busloads of people just walking around the lake.  Others were eating food they had brought in picnic baskets or bought from the booths along the way.  Dad was tempted by the corn roasted on small grills, and the chicken smelled good, and the fruit always looks amazing, but we are afraid to eat off the street.  There were also swimming pools with families spending time playing together.  In one area there was a gated path leading across some pools to some picnic tables nestled up against a sharply rising hill.  A worker showed up with keys to let us in the area and we all sat at the tables while Pres. Mask explained to us that he felt that these were the Waters of Mormon where Alma had hidden from King Noah, and where he taught people what he had learned from the words of the prophet Abinadi, and where he had baptized those who listened and desired to be baptized.

 "And it came to pass that as many as did believe him did go forth to a place which was called Mormon,  having received its name from the king, being in the borders of the land having been infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts.  Now, there was in Mormon a fountain of pure water, and Alma resorted thither, there being near the water a thicket of small trees, where he did hide himself in the daytime from the searches of the king."  So this was a place that matched the description having springs and small trees.  As we sat there in a peaceful, reverent mood away from all the tourists, we read about the people coming to the waters to be taught and then baptized.  Even though we don't know if this was actually the place, we could imagine and envision the scene.  We felt the spirit and remembered the promises we have made to serve him and keep his commandments.  We sang the song "I Believe in Christ."  I know I will never sing that song again without thinking of our visit to the Waters of Mormon.
      It's interesting being in Guatemala during an election year.  We don't get a newspaper or listen to the radio; it would be in Spanish if we did have access.  We read the internet every day and watch Fox news and CNN.  We hear some from Dr. Call whose son is Chairman of the Republican Committee for the state of Colorado.  Dave and Jenny mailed us Romney - Ryan buttons and bumper stickers which we proudly wore and displayed as we watched the debate a couple of weeks ago.  We projected from the internet onto the wall and all watched together.  I'm not sure everyone was a republican for Romney, but if there was someone rooting for Obama, he was quiet.  It was fun watching together and then discussing the debate together afterward.
     We also watched General Conference together.  We could have gone to our Stake Center where it was shown on a big screen - in SPANISH, so we decided to watch from the James's apartment which we call the Victoria Suites Theater.  We loved the talks, sang the songs, sustained our leaders and just experienced conference together.  It was neat to visualize our family gathered together watching the same things in Downey, Eagle, Kuna, Gilroy and Puyallup.  It reminds me of the song, "Somewhere out There," when it talks about "beneath the same pale moon."  & "And even though I know how very far apart we are, it helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star."  We are together everywhere and forever by the gospel.
       We couldn't help but think of Wesley, Drew, Chase and Scott who would be soonest affected by the First Presidency's announcement of the missionary age being lowered to 18 for boys and 19 for girls.  I know that will bless many lives.  In Guatemala, boys already are allowed to go at 18, so we don't expect to see much difference immediately, except with girls.  We think that we will see many more girls and American boys in January.
        We were in charge of Family Home Evening a couple of weeks ago.  That means we needed to have a speaker or an activity and refreshments for about 24 people.  Wayne decided we should have a night of music: a mini talent show and sing - along combination.  We started out by giving everyone a line from a short song like "There Was a Little House in the Middle of the Woods" or "Take Me out to the Ballgame."  The people had to find the rest of the group with their song and then at a certain time it was their turn to perform their song.  Dad played the guitar and sang a song "Las Golondrinas" or The Swallows.  Most of the people enjoyed themselves and participated, but there were  a couple who just endured.  They didn't like singing I guess.  But everyone loved the refreshments.  I made Andrea's yummy artichoke dip with crackers, dill dip and vegetables and 7 layer dip with chips.  It was a fun night, but best part is that we don't have another turn for about four months.  Call us with good ideas.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Real Missionary Work

Editorial note: It appears that we left this blog unposted.  We are attempting to post it again.  it was from the middle of the month of September, I believe.

      One Sunday morning we went with Elder and Sister Call to visit a Maternity hospital.  A family from the States was visiting Guatemala and had hundreds of gift packages for newborns that the Young Women in their ward had assembled.  Each kit was in a large Ziplock bag and contained a receiving blanket, a hat, a onesie, socks, a couple of diapers and a stuffed animal toy.  On that particular day there were about twenty women and their babies in the facility.  We gave the gifts and saw that many of the women were teenagers with their first child, but there were several older women who had other children at home.  The expectant mothers come to these government hospitals just to give birth and are allowed to stay for 24 hours for free.  The cenyer is wonderful because it is clean and provides safe delivery, rest, care and training by trained doctors and nurses for one day.  If there are complications, the patients are sent to a regular hospital for treatment.  One baby died on the morning we visited, and I thought how difficult it must have been for the woman to be there with all the others and their babies and she alone.  I think the young girls from the visiting family were struck with the realization of  how these teenage mothers had ended their childhood and limited their life possibilities at a very young age.
     A couple of weeks ago we invited the sister missionaries, Sis. Espinoza from Nigaragua and Sis. Bates from Wyoming, serving in our ward to come to dinner after church and then we would go visiting with them to people they were teaching.  I was excited to have company for Sunday dinner and decided to fix Dr. Pepper Pork (pulled pork sandwiches) with these beautiful,flavorful, moist and delicious wheat rolls.   We made a fresh green salad with all the "biocided" vegetables, and for dessert I made lemon cake.  When we arrived at church we ran into the missionaries and made plans to meet after the meetings.   Sister Bates said, "I forgot to tell you about my allergies.  I'm allergic to pork, flour, corn and beans."  I couldn't believe that her allergies matched my menu so perfectly.  I spent the two hours in Stake Conference worrying about what I had to feed Sis. Bates instead of trying to understand what the speakers were saying in SPANISH.  We ended up making an emergency and delicious dish of rice,   canned chicken and Ortega chilies so Sis. Bated didn't starve.
     After dinner we visited three families.  The first visit was an eye-opener for us.  We went to an industrial part of town and parked the car near what looked like a broken down cinder block fence.  Covering the rubble was a large piece of corragated tin which we moved aside to enter into a littered path.  As we walked along we saw small ratty, skinny and cowering dogs, and dirty barefoot children playing.  We passed three rooms, for lack of a better term, which were made from the stacked, cinder blocks, more pieces of tin, plastic tarps, cardboard, and any piece of wood the people could find.  When we got to Jorge's house, we were greeted by his mother and sister and were invited into their home which was the size of Zach's bedroom.  We sat on a bunkbed, upside-down buckets, and one chair while we visited and sang with this family.  The only light in the house came through cracks and gaps between cinder blocks and the tin and the tarps; no light or lamp.  There was a small table and a hot plate to cook  on, no cupboard or refrigerator.  On the table were a few dishes and pots and a package of tortillas covered with large ants.  We talked to the mom and then her son came in. He is 17 years old and is the only member of the church. He goes to school, works part time, and goes to seminary every day.  He is clean, handsome and bright and the breadwinner of his family.  I hope he can break out of the poverty, by staying in school and eventually serving a mission so he can see a different life, learn about cleanliness, develop work ethics, and set goals.
    The next family lived in much better conditions.  This time we opened a gate in a wall along a clean sidewalk.  We see these walls and gates everywhere, but never knew what was behind.  We found a dirt lane with small houses along both sides.  This time we entered a small path through a small yard with a vegetable garden.  The house was very small, but was clean, light and orderly.  The whole family were members of the church and they were very welcoming.  We all sat down and sang a song and read the scriptures and shared our testimonies of the Book of Mormon.  We read together from 2 Nephi where it talks about why Jesus was baptized even though He was perfect.  Migda was studying with the missionaries and preparing for her baptism.  I loved being there; it was why I wanted to go on a mission: to teach the gospel.
     The next family lived in a normal neighborhood on a culdesac.  As we approached the houde, we saw neighbors visiting and children riding bikes and playing ball.  They all greeted us and made us feel safe and welcome.  The home belonged to the Alfaro family and the missionaries were teaching Jon Carlos who was the daughter's boyfriend.  We watched the DVD about Joseph Smith's First Vision and then talked about prayer.  At the end of the visit, Jon Carlos told us that he wanted to be baptized and then said a sweet, simple prayer.  I didn't understand all the words he said in Spanish, but his prayer touched my heart and brought the Spirit into that home.  As we left, I felt happy that I was there, but the missionaries were "over the moon."  They had been on their missions for over six months and that was their first baptism commitment.
     On Sept. 1 we loaded up the vans and headed on another remote site trip to Esquipulas in the southern part of Guatemala near the border with Honduras.  We arrived at the home of the Danielsons and loaded everything into one van and left that car in their driveway.  That way the dental equipment was safe in their gated and guarded community.  We all piled into the other van along with the Danielsons and took off for Copan, Honduras.  We crossed the border at about 5:00, but it was raining so hard that it could have been midnight.  The skies were black.  We had traveled through the storm with low visability and the fear of rock slides.  All along the roads huge rocks the size of the car together with smaller rocks, gravel, water and mud forced traffic to travel from one side of the road to a single lane on the other.  Any dangerous road condition is marked by tree branches and bushes dragged out into the road across the lane.  The weather cleared just when we got to the border so the guys were able to take the passports and visas to show to the border patrol without walking in the rain.  We arrived in Copan at Don Udo's Hotel just in time for dinner followed by a fun game of Mexican Train until 11:30.
     While we were there Wayne met a man who was the District Governor of Rotary.  He lives in Belize and is over all the clubs in Central America.  We visited with him for awhile and of course he wanted to know what we were doing in  Guatemala and Honduras.  When we told him about our trips to treat people all over, he invited us to Belize.  We explained to him that we aren't licensed to practice dentistry anywhere else but Guatemala.  We mentioned that we were going to Melchor, Guatemala in November, a town right on the border of Belize; he gave us his card and invited us to his ranch.  That will give us an opportunity to see the ruins and other attractions in that country.

Marvin, our guide.
     On Saturday we headed for the ruins, found a guide and took off hiking.  Our guide's name was Marvin and he was amazing.  He spoke German, French, Spanish and English and had been doing tours for 20 years.  He knew much about the land, vegetation, and the Mayan culture and history.  We were the only people in his group so we had his undivided attention as we walked for four hours amidst amazing ruins.  For every temple, stadium, residence, stellae and statue that we saw, our guide pointed out the huge mounds of earth overgrown with jungle that were also Mayan ruins which hadn't been excavated or restored.  This village was inhabited by the Mayans from 426AD to around 1200AD.  The leaders of the Maya were thought to be semidivine.  They had strange names like Mat Head, Yax K'uk'Mo', Waterlily Jaguar, Moon Jaguar, Butz' Cahn, Smoke Imix, and 18 Rabbit, Smoke Monkey and Smoke Shel.  Each of the kings built upon the last king's temples and buildings etc.  So that's why they keep finding more and more ruins.  The ruins have drawn archaeologists from all over the world.  They come for years and some just move to Copan and spend their life digging, tunneling and studying.  They found a staircase which they named the Hieroglyphic Staircase which is a history of the Mayan dynasties.  Two things caused the end of this city.  One was overpopulation.  The population of 25,000 kept growing and the people expanded into the surrounding fertile land and then there was nothing to feed the people.   They left because of erosion, droughts, and floods.  When 18 Rabbit was captured and beheaded the people began to question the divinity of their kings.  When the Spanish discovered the city in 1524 the people lived in small villages.  Our guide told us that once the jungle in Copan used to have jaguars and monkeys and boa constrictors.  They had many Macaws, but they were kept in cages to protect them from the boa constrictors, the only surviving animal from the past; we were glad we didn't see one.
     One of the most interesting parts of this area was a large public gathering place with an athletic field where they played a game like soccer, except they used a hard ball of gum rubber the size of a basketball weighing about 25 lbs.  They were only allowed to touch the ball with their shoulders, hips or knees; no heads, feet, or hands.  Another interesting feature of the game was the prize for winning.  The captain of the winning team was painted blue and beheaded on an altar in the public square.  This was an honor filled with glory and the guarantee that he would live in heaven with the gods.  I think I'd settle for a 6" plastic trophy.

   We wound through the mountains on a hillside road which dropped into a small town in the valley.  We saw a beautiful white basilica, that reminded me of the Salt Lake Temple.  It was surrounded by the town and the green countryside.  Later in the week we went into the basilica to see the town's most popular attraction, The Black Christ.  We tried to find out the significance of the large crucifix with the Black Christ, but no one seemed to know.  One theory was that the figure of Christ was carved out of normal brown wood, but it miraculously turned black.  Some people believe that it is evidence of his love of the dark skinned people of Guatemala.  Every weekend bus loads of people come on pilgrimages to see this sacred shrine.  As we walked through the quiet church with the beautiful altar, paintings, and stations of the cross, we felt the reverence there.
     Every morning at 6:AM the bells in the basilica rang, and rang, and rang.  It started out with what we expected to be the time, but the chime stopped at five and was followed by a random, rapid ringing that lasted for almost a minute, and then was followed by another chime or two.  Those bells were the wake-up call to the whole town, because afterward we heard trucks, vendors, dogs, and noise in general.  The view from our room was of the rooftops of the buildings across the street.  On one building there were at least 30 satellite dishes and receivers, and on another were two guard dogs who snarled with bared teeth and barked at every passerby. Our hotel was just a block and a half away from the basilica and so we got up with the rest of the town.  Interestingly enough, the whole chiming sequence rang out again at 6:00PM.

     On Sunday morning we went to church in a small chapel about 5 blocks from our hotel.  The people were friendly and welcoming.  We attended all the classes exactly the same lessons we would have had in Guatemala City or Downey.  As our Sunday School class began, a man came in with a backpack filled with suckers.  He passed them out to everyone who wanted one.  The dental team all exchanged glances and had a glimpse of what we should expect the next day.
     We worked all day on Monday on the members who came there.  We get there early to be ready, and already the line is out the door.  We worked from 8:00 to 6:00 and still there were people who were waiting.  We told the ones left that we would see them at 7:00 the next morning so we could get them done before the orphans came at 9:00.  All the leftovers were there accompanied by others who hoped to be seen.  We got them all.  Our most outstanding case was Jorge, a 12 year old with caries evident when he talked and glaring when he smiled.  We ended up doing 17 fillings in 12 teeth.  His mother and he were so excited to see the change in his mouth and also in his countenance.   After our 2 1/2 hours of work, his older brother told him that he had a new mouth and a second chance.  I hope he can keep his mouth healthy.
     Another patient, a sweet little old lady who wanted teeth pulled was so grateful  that we got her out of her pain that she tried to give me this beautiful gold ring she was wearing.  It was probably a wedding ring, but if not that, it was a treasure.  Of course, I wouldn't take it, so she just gave me a kiss instead.

     Then came the orphans.  We treated 41 orphans from the Catholic orphanage in town.  These children were darling, clean, quiet and well behaved.  We saw five who had no cavities.  For each one we made an announcement and everyone clapped and cheered for their clean mouths.  We also saw others who had four or five cavities, but we could tell these kids used a tooth brush and ate  wholesome meals, not lollipops.The Johnsons had some little swaddling dolls that had been sent to them from the states to give to the girls and some wooden cars for all the boys.  The children loved them.  We were lucky to have help from the full time young missionaries serving in the area, Elder Wooton and Elder Martin.  They were good at directing traffic, translating, loading up and just helping in any way they could.  The children loved them.
  After we finished seeing the children, the nun invited us to visit the orphanage.  It was beautiful and clean and happy.  The children flocked around us and wanted us to hold their hands.  One little girl remembered that we were the ones who treated her and showed us her doll which she and Wayne had named Estrellita.  We saw the nun holding a four month old little boy who had been left on the doorstep in a box.  In Guatemala children who are abandoned will be put into orphanages and can never be adopted.  The country had a problem with people stealing and then selling babies, so now all adoptions have to be arranged before the baby is born or the child will be put in an orphanage and will stay there until he is 18.  The nun told us that they had found a newborn baby girl on the doorstep in the morning after a huge rainstorm, but she died the next day.  We all thought of all the people we know who would love to raise those children, but couldn't.  Americans absolutely cannot adopt Guatemalan babies because they believe that Americans only want the babies for their organs.  Those children in that orphanage were lucky to be in that beautiful facility where they were loved and cared for so well.
     When we arrived home, we heard about the volcanic eruption of Fuego.  We previously sent a picture of that volcano from La Reunion, the hotel we stayed at in Antigua.  It was sending up smoke then, but on Friday it erupted spewing out smoke, ash, fire and lava.  Thirty-three thousand people were evacuated because of the gases and ash including all the people at La Reunion.  Today at church we talked to a couple who are serving near Fuego and they said it's back to normal now and all the people have returned home.
     Because of the problems in the Middle East with riots and the raids on the American Embassy where the ambassador and three others were killed in Lybia and the American School was looted and destroyed in Egypt, and the rioting in Sudan, we were advised to stay indoors on Friday and Saturday.  The area office and the embassy felt it was not safe for Americans.Things were already unusual in Guatemala because Saturday was their Independence Day.  On Friday we went to the temple at 6:00AM and there was no traffic at all.  At 9:00 we screened missionaries at the CCM (MTC) next door to the temple, and then stopped at the market on the way home.  We were home by 12:00 and felt safe all the time.  Later in the day we heard fireworks, which is normal here and didn't see or hear anything unusual.
     On Saturday morning ten missionary couples went over to our ward building at 9:00 to have a Guatemalan breakfast and to celebrate Independence Day.  We were the first to arrive and helped set up tables and chairs.  We thought about going to McDonalds for sausage Mc Muffins because the breakfast turned out to be lunch and finally started at 11:15.  They sang their national song, and then had little presentations about each Central American country and then we ate foods from those places.  We were a bit afraid to eat the food, but because we were very hungry by this time and because it looked good, we all ate.  None of us had any problems and the the food was delicious.  That afternoon we all gathered on the rooftop and celebrated Independence Day with a potluck dinner.  It was fun to sit and talk and eat Wayne's black beans prepared in his new bean pot seasoned with a green banana before use.  Everything else was yummy too.
Goat milk mustache
     I have to include one thing that we have been trying to take a picture of since we came, the goat man.  Most mornings we see him on our way to work, leading his four or five goats along the sidewalk.  He stops at the house's of his customers and they give him a cup and he fills it with milk.  He squats down, lifts a back leg of one of the goats and starts milking.  I think it is an unusual sight that is strictly Guatemalan.
     Another regular on our route to the clinic is an old one-legged woman who begs from the same spot every day.  Dr. Johnson always slows down to give her a quetz and she makes her way nearer the curb to get his coin.  Now we give her money too, because she recognizes the car and expects it.  She always says, "Gracias," and follows it with a blessing that we never hear the end of because we are forced by traffic to keep moving.

     Love and miss you all, but we keep busy enough to enjoy life like never before.