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.
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.