Sunday, January 27, 2013

Remember November?

Remember November
     I started a post a month ago and have been trying to get on line to finish it ever since, but now, with the stars alligned, I am blogging again, and my November is gone.  I guess I didn't save it.  So I'll begin again.  On November 1, All Saints Day, we celebrated along with everyone in the country.  In Guatemala it's a national holiday and people flock to the cemetery to remember deceased loved ones.  They put flowers on the graves like we do in the States, but times 50.  The other part of the celebration is kite flying.  Mayans believe they can communicate with their departed loved ones using the kites which represent the floating spirits of the dead living in the heavenly realm.  Although people decorate graves with flowers and fly kites all throughout the country, we went on a bus with other senior missionaries to a kite festival in Sumpango, the largest festival in Guatemala.  The festival is held on top of a windy hill in    a large field where teams of people are displaying their 30-50 feet kites   These huge kites are built like the floats in the Rose Parade.
The kites don't fly, but are judged and awarded prizes and receive the honor of having the best kite that year.  School kids fly kites they have made at school, others buy kites at the festival.  The cemetery is down the hill reached by a steep road lined on both sides with vendors selling everything: kites, flowers, clothing, souveners, food, DVD's, shoes, etc.  At the bottom of the hill is the entrance to the cemetery decorated with garlands, wreaths and bouquets of colors.  The crypts are already painted in bright colors, so with all the colorful flowers there, it is spectacular.  The children run around playing and flying kites, but the older people are seriously honoring their dead with prayers and reverence.  We saw one old man who was kneeling near a small stone with a painted name on it.  He didn't put flowers there, but he was cleaning away weeds and dirt.  The experience was beautiful in many ways.
     November was the climax of an interesting presidential campaign in the U.S. and we watched CNN and FOX News to try to know what was going on.  Jenny sent us stickers and buttons. and we wore them and waved them as we watched the conventions together in the James' apartment.  I think all the senior missionaries who live in Victoria Suites were Romney supporters;  if someone wasn't, he didn't let anyone know.  Finally election night came, and again everyone gathered to watch the results.
By 8:00 I could see things weren't going well for Romney, so I went down stairs to our apratment.  As I left some of the people were still holding on to hope, especially Dr. Call.  His son in Colorado is the State Republican Chairman and was confident that Colorado would go for Romney.  Dr. Call was surprised and disappointed more than most.
At about 4:00 am, I woke up and turned on TV just long enough to hear a short excerpt of Romney.s concession followed by Obama's acceptance.  I was a bit gloomy all day, but by evening I'd adjusted and I support our President, our country, and the voice of the people.
     That morning we picked up Carmina, one of our volunteer dental assistants, and I suggested that she be especially nice to Dr. Call because he took the election results hard especially because of Colorado and the fact that the state legalized marajuana.  She was surprised that we were talking freely about who we voted for because in Guatemala people are encouraged not to discuss who they voted for.  There are bulletins on TV informing people that they could not be forced to tell.  She explained that people might suffer consequences like losing their job or even suffer violence if they voted for the wrong person.  I explained that in the U.S. that doesn't happen, and people have freedom of speech to express their views.  It made me realize how blessed we are to live in the United States.
          About this time I received a calling in church.  I was feeling pretty useless and really wanted to have a job.    When the bishop asked me to come to his office, I was excited.  He asked me to be the Primary chorister meaning I would teach the children songs and lead the singing.   I said I'd do it , of course, but I thought, "How?"  I don't know the kids; I don't know how to lead music; I don't sing;  and most of all - I can't speak Spanish.  And the other problem was that the very next Sunday was the Primary Sacrament Meeting program where the kids give talks and sing all the songs they have been practicing for a whole year, and the ones I knew very well in ENGLISH!  That week we had three practices in the afternoon and I left work early to attend.  I made posters and helps mainly for me because the kids knew the songs well and sang beautifully.
Beautiful Cuilapa
    The most serious part was the we were supposed to go on a remote site trip along with a visit to a place called Monte Rico on the coast.  We ended up not going on the fun part and going to the program in our ward, and then heading to Cuilapa, where we set up the chapel as a dental clinic and got things ready for the next three days.   We treated lots of grateful people.  We handed out doll and cars to the kids.  You wouldn't believe the effect those small toys have on the kids.   They calm them down, comfort them, distract them and reward them.  We see the tears and fears disappear instantly.  We worked at break-neck speed until we finished a group of people who had had traveled by bus from a remote village and arrived when we felt like we in the home stretch.  We treated them all and they were grateful.
We treated some twin boys and then their mother, who were not excited excited about going to the dentist, but posed  for a picture when it was all over and they survived.  It sometimes   surprizes me to think how the patients are so happy just to get a filling or a tooth pulled.  They are still smiling and shaking our hands as  they leave with gauze in their mouths.
     We met a guy at our hotel who came up and introduced himself as a member of the church.  He was from Mexico and was a scientist who eradiated medflies so they could not breed.  He said that the medfly is no longer a problem in Mexico because of his work, and he was in Guatemala to eliminate medflies here.  Doesn't that sound a bit like science fiction?  We also saw a young boy who was wearing a Dodger shirt.  I wanted to take his picture, but he went into his room before I could say anything to him.  Wayne wouldn't let me knock on his door for fear he would be scared to death of crazy people.  He probably bought his shirt at Mega Paca, the Deseret Industries of Guatemala.  They are all over the country, and recieve shipments of donated, used clothing from Salt Lake.  We have seen many kids wearing BYU sweatshirs, who just like the warmth or the color, but have no idea what BYU is.
     One day at the clinic we were waiting for the orphans to show up and took a short walk around the neighborhood.  Our clinic is on a road that circles around a Relief Map.  This relief map shows the topography of Guatemala with all the mountains, valleys, rivers and bordering oceans and seas.  It covers at least half a block and has a path built around it so you can see from different angles.  We went to it when we had been here about a month and I really didn't appreciate it then, but now having traveled through the country, I realize how amazingly accurate it is.
The map was constructed in 1905 and is still is considered to be fairly correct especially considering the creator, Francisco Irrisario, didn't have the benefit of Google Earth.  With the weekly earthquakes here and since it was built more than 100 years ago, it's a miracle it is still standing.  On one edge of the map is platform about two stories high that you can climb to get an aerial perspective of the map.  We went there with Pres. Nicolaysen, the President of the Mission Training Center, who was up there with a group  on North American missionaries orienting them to the size and shape of Guatemala.  He was also pointing out the possble sites of the events of the Book of Mormon.  It is a popular tourist attraction and a landmark in the city.  When we tell people how to get to the clinic, we say we are near the Relief Map and they know where we are.
     As we walk on around the circle road, we come to the huge baseball stadium.  It is beautiful with covered seating, a snack booth, manicured field, dougouts and even locker/dressing rooms under the seats.  We walked in and talked to an older man who was the custodian.   We could tell that he was really proud of the facility.  He invited us to attend a game, but most of their games are evening games, and we aren't allowed to be out in the public after dark.  They also have Saturday and Sunday games, and we will probably go to a Saturday game when the weather warms and we aren't working, or traveling, or the stars align, etc.  We miss baseball games.  We developed a strong affinity while we went to baseball games every Saturday for years, and years, and years.  Not to mention the weekday games in the fog and the cold.
Then next door to our clinic on the same road in an amazing Little League field.  Little kids are there almost every afternoon practicing.  Some of the girls from Mi Casa, the orphanage the clinic is part of, play on teams there.  They have invited us to their games, but again they play at times we can't attend.  Part of the problem is that after we have worked there five days aq week we don't feel like going back on Saturday.  But the field and the stadium is better than any I've ever seen except on television at the Little League National Championship.  I like to go over on my lunch break and watch the little kids play.  There are soccer fields every where, but these two fields are the only ones I've seen in Guatemala.
     Our Thanksgiving was fun with all the Senior missionaries gathering together for a feast.  These women know how to cook.  We had about 20 pies, one real turkey and 6 turkey roasts.  Several people made homemade rolls.  We had green bean casseroles, green salads and, of course, I made Jan's pineapple cream cheese salad.  It was a good yime to reflect on our blessings.
We are grateful to be here on this mission.  We are grateful for our health and safety.  We are grateful to have good friends and a wonderful family.  We are so thankful for the opportunity we have to serve this mission.  Everyday we are able to help people feel better, look better, and improve their lives, and at the same time serve God.  We are truly blessed.


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