Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Should We Be Having This Much Fun?

Monday 28 January 

Last week was a relatively quiet week.  The first week of the month is our busy week for making phone calls though we make a number of calls almost every day just to keep up on a number of different things for our PEF participants.  We talk to them about the type of payment plan they are on, about paying off their loan for a 10% discount, about job information, we even did a resume for one of our participants this week via email.  So we keep pretty busy in general though some times are obviously much busier than others.  I also spend time on the computer at a website the program has where I can print up reports that give us lots of different information we can use to better help our participants.  Bob is working on a data base with notes about our participants so he can know them better when he talks to them.  I am trying to get pictures of them for him to include.  This is hard as they are spread over the whole island.

Anyway, we had a little time last week.  On Tuesday we took Sister Sandra Moodie to lunch.  She is the Employment Specialist for Spanish Town 1st Branch and probably for the District and possibly even the island.  She seems to be the only one who really knows about employment in Jamaica and she is well known by the Employment people in the Area.  Anyway, she works at the Money Museum at the Bank of Jamaica—the national bank, down on the water in Kingston.  The museum was quite interesting.  It is small but has a lot of interesting information about the history of money in Jamaica and around the world.    Then we had lunch and talked about our Jobs seminars which she has been to a couple of times.  She seems to think what we are doing is good and the right thing for the people here at this time.  We are not sure the Area people agree but we have confidence in her opinion. 

 This is Sister Moodie on the left.  The couple is the Broomfields.  She is in the District Primary Presidency and he is a District Clerk.  They are all from Spanish Town 1st Branch.

Wednesday we had an appointment with Dr Law to tighten Bob’s braces so we did a little shopping while we were out.  Thursday evening all the senior missionaries met at a fish restaurant  run by some people some of the missionaries met when we went up to Holy Well.  They went earlier and recommended it but I doubt we will go again as the service was very slow even for Jamaica and I don’t think many people were really impressed with their meal. It was fun to see everyone even though we did not get to visit much because it was also noisy.  A funny thing happened as we left though.  I parked the car right up next to the front door but when we came out there was no room to move it so the valet pulled it out for me—out into the street going the wrong direction.  When I told him it was facing the wrong direction he said “I’ll stop traffic for you”  so he stepped out into the street while I made a big U turn and got going in the right direction.  That is Jamaica—no one even thought about honking.  It is all okay.

Friday we went to Institute class again.  We really enjoy this even though we are a little obvious in the group.  No one seems to mind having us there.  Pres Brown is the teacher and he really is good.  We are studying the New Testament.  These young people really are amazing.  They have very deep insights and they really do not seem to be very shy about sharing their feelings.  Pres Brown really tries to get them to feel what is being taught and I think he does a good job.  This week we learned about the apostles who had first let the Savior down and then when He returned and they learned who He was and what they were supposed to do they became very strong and even capable of many miracles similar to what He had preformed.  Then Pres Brown got us to think about the modern Apostles and how they are like those of old.  It was a very good and important lesson for all of us.  

Saturday we got up early and drove to Negril—the farthest point of the island from us.  (Negril is where we ran our 10K in December.)  I was not really looking forward to the drive as the roads are bad and difficult to drive but it was not all that bad.  I think many of the pot holes had been repaired.  That does not help the narrow windy roads but it was a little better.  Like Bob said you have to be extremely aware and conscious of many different things at all times as you drive on these roads.  Pot holes, curves, goats alongside the road, pedestrians, walking and riding bicycles , oncoming traffic,  (cars who may be passing and need part of your lane), cars trying to pass you—even when you are trying to pass the car in front of you, etc etc.  At the same time the country is so beautiful and the sights so interesting you want to see as much of that as you can also. 

Anyway we arrived in time to meet the missionaries in the middle of town about 15 minutes before we had planned to.  We had called them telling them we would be there and that Sister Hendricks had asked us to inspect their apartment.  So we met them but one of them had a flat on his bike so we had to basically follow them as they walked along the street to their apartment.  I would pull over and wait for them to get a ways ahead then I would drive up to the next place where I could pull over.  It worked.  We took them to lunch at Ricks, which is a nice restaurant on the water.  We went there before—they have divers to entertain the diners.  The Elders enjoyed it as did we.  They are good young men.  Elder Christensen is the trainer  and Elder Barber (and is our first 18 year old) got here on Tuesday.  They are both from Utah though at first I thought Elder Christensen may have been Jamaican. 

 Elder Barber and Elder Christensen.  Good missionaries working hard and having a wonderful experience.  They love Negril!

Their apartment was in very good condition under the circumstances.  The walls, floor, appliances, sinks, etc were so stained they could not have gotten them any cleaner but I was impressed.  I sure would not have liked living in that apartment or that neighborhood however!  They showed us where the Church was and we dropped them off and went to our hotel—the Travel Beach Resort.  

They made a mistake and gave us a double bed.  I am so grateful someone else came in and did not want their room with two beds so we could trade--Bob fell right to sleep that night but I was awake almost every hour throughout the whole night.  When we arrived we changed into our swim suits and went to the pool.  I really did not want to go into the ocean and have to deal with the sand again so we sat by the pool and read for a couple of hours.  Bob got in the pool but did not really swim.  Then we walked down the beach for a while.  We had dinner at the restaurant there at the hotel.  It was right on the water and very beautiful.  The music was not bad during dinner though a little loud.  But after dinner it got really loud and then they had some karaoke or something going on all night.  Jamaicans like their music loud and then to really broadcast it to the next town they use huge loud speakers.  O my goodness it can be loud!  I laid awake most of the night worrying if I was going to be able to stay awake driving home the next day.
 The pool at the hotel.  Pretty colorful paint job.

 The beach for the hotel.  The dining area is on the right hand side of the picture.  Beautiful!

We loved going to the Negril Branch.  We drove up the driveway not knowing where to park as it was obvious a family lived below the Church.  As it turned out there must be several families living in the same building.  There was a woman doing her laundry by hand at the bottom of the stairs up to the chapel.  I asked if I could take her picture and promised I would not post it on face book-- I hope I am not breaking my promise by posting it in my blog.  We met Pres Henry before the meeting and were able to visit with him for a minute.

 We are very fortunate to have washers.  This woman knows about washers but she is not unhappy with what she has.  She told about a friend of hers who makes sure she gets her Bluing soap every time she comes back to Jamaica.  I am going to try it out on my whites.

This is President Douglas Henry.  A really dedicated man.  His wife works in Miami and has been gone for 2 years.  The rest of his family is in Kingston but he stays in Negril largely to keep the Branch going.  He worries it may be closed because there are so few active members.

 Pres Henry in his office.  I took this mainly because of the curtain.

The facility actually is very nice for a meeting place.  It must have been a large 4 bedroom apartment.  There was a large area with windows and a small patio at one end and a sink and counter top at the other.  There were two smaller rooms on each side.  One for Primary, one for Priesthood, One for Youth (I think)  and one for the Branch President’s office, (RS met in the Chapel).  There may have been 15 people there—with at least two investigators.  We did not go to Sunday School as we were meeting with one of our PEF participants during that time but in Relief Society we had three members and a tourist, and me.  It was a wonderful meeting—very good discussion and a sweet spirit of sisterhood.  I don’t know how many men were in Priesthood meeting but the tourist taught the lesson (It was his second week there) and there was another tourist there as well plus Bob.  I hope we will be able to return to visit that branch again it has a very warm spirit about it.

 This is the building where the Negril Branch meets upstairs.  You can see the Church sign in the middle window on the top. 

 This is the Chapel and I suspect the Cultural hall as well.  You can see through the doorway on the left someone in one of the other rooms.  We sang to a CD but they really sang out!  I think there were about 15 in attendance.

Our jobs seminar went well.  We had about seven participants including the branch president and then a couple of Older Gentlemen (Bob gave me a warning about using that term as they were both probably younger than he by a few years.)  Anyway, I think they only came out of curiosity.  But while Bob taught I typed up the mini resumes and then before they left we printed them on card stock and cut them on the paper cutter we brought and they went on their way with a hand full of mini resumes to help them in their networking to find jobs.  We felt pretty good about how it went—though I must say I was dripping again because of the stress as well as the heat.

Some of the Branch members:

Maurice Smith.  His hair is braided up in a little knot on the top of his head.

   Renee Aurthurs--very shy but enjoyed having her picture taken.

 Sister White who has spent a lot of time in Massachusetts--and you can hear it in her accent.  But she has come home permanently to Negril.

 Nashell Haughton one of our PEF participants. She works as a receptionist and doctor's assistant now but wants to be a registered nurse or a midwife.

Thankfully the trip home was uneventful.  I was able to stay awake—it would have been impossible to fall asleep on such roads and having to be so super-alert at every moment.  I was concerned about coming home in the dark but it didn’t get really dark until we were back on pretty familiar roads.  We did have to stop to try to take a picture of the moon.  As we were coming up one of the main streets the full moon was sitting in a bed of clouds right in front of us.  It really was spectacular but I could not stop for a picture there so we had to chase it a little until I was able to pull over and get a shot.  It was not as beautiful but it turned out kind of interesting anyway.

We had soup for supper and went to bed very early and slept a long time thankfully!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Pace Picks up Again

Sunday January 20, 2013
It has been a while since I wrote so I’ll do a little review.  We love attending the institute class here in Constant Springs/Boulevard Branches.  Pres Brown is the teacher and he is as good as any institute teacher I have ever had.  He stands close to the class and often puts his hand on the top of the head of the student (male or female) he is standing closest to as he is talking.  No one seems to mind I think it makes everyone feel loved by him.  We are studying the New Testament and the lesson this week was on the last few days of the Savior’s life.  It was really a moving lesson and the students had wonderful insights.  They really have a knack of applying stories and doctrines to their personal lives which is a weakness in my scripture study so I really appreciate them.  Pres Brown tried to help us feel like a disciple who was present.  It was easier to appreciate the suffering of the Savior when I tried to put myself there. 

We had a PEF council meeting on Monday afternoon that was pretty intense.  As we were sort of rushing out and several people were trying to take care of some last minute details (so there was a little confusion) Pres Brown stopped me and quickly asked if I would critique his lesson from Friday night.  It was totally out of the blue and also totally unexpected.  No one had mentioned a single word that would have caused him to think of it at that time so he obviously had thought of it earlier and just remembered as I was walking out the door.  I was flattered I must admit, but I was glad for the opportunity too because I had been thinking of one thing in particular about his lesson that I was trying to figure out how to talk to him about.  So the next day I wrote him a note with my critique—which of course was very positive except for this one thing I wanted to say.  So I said it bluntly and then said something about a mother taking advantage of a teaching moment. He wrote me back and addressed me as Mama and thanked me.  After the Zone Conference on Wed he came up to me and just threw his arms around me and gave me a big and very warm bear hug.  It made me feel very good—and very close to him somehow.

Saturday last week all the Senior Missionaries piled into the 15 seat van and one truck and drove up Blue Mountain.  It is on the opposite end of Kingston from the mountain or “hill” I have described before.  It is also the mountain we look at from our apartment.  It is I think the highest mountain in Jamaica.  It was a beautiful drive – you guessed it—very steep, windy and full of potholes!  It was much longer and much higher than the other mountain (I think it is called the Red Hill).  From the top you are supposed to be able to see as far as Ocho Rios but it was a little overcast so we could not see that direction but we could see Kingston and the ocean beyond—it was beautiful.  We took a little hour loop hike around the top then gathered at a little gazebo in the area some of these folks had used when they came to Girls Camp this summer, and had our sack lunch.  It was a very pleasant walk, ride, view, visit, and experience in general.  Bob and I may go back some day for the hike if we are up to the drive.

The Pearsons, the Wrights, the Mortensens, the Evans, Sister Smith, & Sister Larsen

Notice the street lamp post.

 Kingston and the ocean in the distance.

A cemetery on the top of the mountain.

Bob at the military post nearly on top of the mountain apparently to keep the troops away from the malaria at the lower altitudes. 

The walk offered thousands of beautiful nature pictures--like these wild berries.

The Wrights, the Pearsons, Elder Smith, the Evans, & Bob on the trail.

A fern getting ready to uncoil and reveal itself.

Note the poster "Relax, Enjoy...View Soon Come...
"Soon come" is a very often used phrase.

A faded sign no one else even took much note of but it meant something to me.

A tunnel made in the over growing vegetation.

 Another view of Kingston from the top of the Blue Mountains.

Sunday we did our first one day Jobs Seminar.  We have been doing them in two days but found that not enough people came back to make it worth two days if we have to spend the night.  This one was just in Kingston Branch so we did not have to travel but it was a good one to try it out on because the next week was District Conference so we would not be able to go back anyway.  Even though we had more than 24 people there and were not able to type or print the mini resumes it actually went quite well.  We thought we had it all ready to just type and print right there but nothing worked out so we brought all 24 mini resumes home and Bob spent hours typing them and I spent hours printing and cutting them.  But they turned out nice and I think people will appreciate them.  We will need to follow up by phone.  This coming week we are going to Negril, on the other side of the island, so we will need to spend the night -- I hope all will go well and we will get to print them up before we leave.

This last week was sort of intense.  After our Sunday at Kingston Branch we came home literally dripping wet from heat and stress perspiration.  We were exhausted.  Monday at our PEF meeting we presented a letter I had written to PEF participants encouraging them to remember their obligations and the purpose and spirit of PEF.  I felt I was inspired when I wrote it and Bob felt the same when he read it and Pres Hendricks and Pres Brown both thought it was very good and did not change a single word.  That was nice but then things got a little intense when we were discussing Bob’s idea for fixing the awful mess they are in here for participants making loan payments at the Scotia Bank.  Pres Brown fully endorsed the plan Bob presented but then as he was trying to get us prepared for a letdown or alterations from DR he and Bob got a little excited.  We ended with a plan to discuss it with Elder Cornish from the Area Presidency when he comes next month.  

We had to hurry home to get our dish for the potluck dinner at the Mission Home which we ended up being an hour late because of traffic.  It took us over an hour to make the 10-15 minute drive from our apartment.  It was a nice dinner as always and then we went around the room sharing with each other what each couple is working on here in the mission.  We and the Wrights had met earlier that day for lunch with the Murdocks, who had just returned from DR and an Area Welfare training.  We thought they may have some direction from the Area Employment people which we were not particularly anxious to hear but fortunately we were wrong.  What we are anticipating is the transition to the new vision for PEF/Employment/Welfare.  It will be a wonderful program focused on Self Reliance but our understanding is that we are to hold our course until the third quarter this year and not start the anticipated changes until they have been tried in other areas on a set schedule.  But we are afraid some of the people in DR are trying to move things along ahead of schedule.  They want to “prepare people” for the changes but we feel that would probably cause confusion when the changes are officially announced.  Anyway Monday was a little stressful emotionally.

Tuesday Bob typed mini resumes all day—I don’t know what I did—probably sat and ate Bon Bons.  Wednesday was our Zone Conference which was as good as the ones we enjoyed so well in Toronto.  These young men are really prepared to be good leaders in the Church.  Pres Hendricks is a good teacher as he works with his missionaries.  He has a great sense of humor and a wonderful knowledge of the scriptures for an FBI Agent (his former profession).  But even though it was a wonderful conference sitting on wooden benches for 6 hours is almost more than we can handle—how did they do it before padded benches?

We got home around 4 or 4:30 and I started immediately on printing the mini resumes.  We put several on a page so I had to format them so I could cut them.  Bob asked if I wanted to go to Wendy’s for dinner but I said I needed to get these done before going.  Finally around 9:00 he offered to make oatmeal for dinner and I jumped at that since I was still deep in my project.  I got finished cutting them into just bigger than business card size at around midnight.  I was exhausted but it had to get done as we were leaving early in the morning with Larsens for Montego Bay for our Anniversary vacation.  We would get back just in time for District Conference in Spanish Town on Saturday where I hoped to give Pres Stewart, the Kingston Branch President the mini resumes to give to his branch members.  Thankfully it did work out that way.

We had a wonderful anniversary vacation.  The drive from Kingston to Ocho Rios is especially beautiful. (NO PICTURES BECAUSE I WAS DRIVING AND THERE IS NO PLACE TO STOP)  It is mountainous and between Spanish Town and Linstead is that beautiful little river I think I described before.  It has a one-way bridge across it.  You come to a stop light where you have to wait for the traffic to come from the other direction before you get your turn to cross.  There are times when water flows over the bridge so the road is actually closed.  But it is a beautiful little drive along this narrow little road cut out of the rock of the canyon.  I asked Elder Larsen at one point how high he thought the cliff was above us and he guessed 1000 feet—straight up!  Some places you actually sort of drive under the rock as it has only been carved out for the cars to pass and not higher.  I’m sure big trucks cannot use that road. 

Ocho Rios is on the north shore of the island (Kingston is on the south) and it has a harbor for cruise ships.  It is a nice little town.  The Church is up stairs in a little shopping strip mall.  There is just a little sign outside that lists all the businesses etc that are upstairs and the Church is one of them.  You go up stairs and the walls are painted a very bright yellow when you come to the very bright red door that is the entrance to the “Church”.  It is only one room so I don’t really know how the meetings work.  We will find out in a couple of months when we go there for our Jobs Seminar.  Sister Larsen told us when a woman in the ward died they could not hold the funeral there because the surrounding businesses objected.  

 The sign beside the door on the street.

Sister Larsen on the Yellow Stairway to the Chapel.

The Church.--The taped up sign on the window says so.

 We wandered around a little street market for a few minutes and Bob bought a great Jamaican shirt and then we went up Mystic Mountain on a long gondola ride.  It was marvelous—you could see a cruise ship in the harbor and the ocean was gorgeous and the trees which we were soaring above were beautiful.  The sun was not hot and breeze was lovely.  It was just perfect.  From the top you can take a Jamaican bobsled ride if you don’t mind getting wet and then you can take a zip line ride down the mountain to about half way where you can catch the gondola to get the rest of the way down.  We decided since the Larsens have already done both of these things we will wait until we go back on our Senior Missionary outing.  We ate lunch up there and had a fantastic view and then enjoyed the lovely gondola ride down.  

Larsens in the gondola in front of us.  There are some people dressed in red in the gondola below Larsens who are coming down the mountain.

One of the views from the gondola

A cruise ship in the Ocho Rios harbor below.

The highway far below the gondola--on the way down.

In the gondola we were above the tops of the trees some times.

 The Jamaican Bobsled ride at the top of Mystic Mountain.

Bob with a bird on his shoulder--sort of.

 This is an amazing tree with its roots and trunk spreading out over the top of the ground. 

The drive from Ocho Rios to Montego Bay is nice because all the roads have been vastly improved for the convenience of the tourists we don’t get in Kingston.  The road is along the coast line and so you actually see the ocean occasionally and as you pass Falmouth you can see cruise ships in the harbor.  The people of Falmouth dredged out the harbor so big ships can come in but the town has nothing, so all the tourists are bused to Ocho and Montego Bay.  I think that is really sad—these people really need that income.

Montego Bay is really full of resorts all along the coast.  The town itself looks a little nicer than some of the other towns we are more familiar with but it really caters to the tourists.  I can’t blame them, I only wish more of the island got more of that income and provided more of those jobs.  We stayed at a Holiday Inn just on the outskirts of town.  It is an “all-inclusive” hotel—meaning one price pays for everything—entertainment, food, pool and beach, etc.  It is like being on a cruise in a hotel—you can get a hamburger or ice cream or drinks etc anytime.  We really enjoyed the water and the food and especially the violin player on Thursday evening but the music the rest of the time was very loud and nowhere to go to escape it.  Our room overlooked the pool and stage--the music was not our favorite type but it was loud!  I guess we are used to it however because of our club down the street from us in Kingston because Bob was able to go right to sleep and it really did not take me all that long either.

The sunset over the top of the hotel--taken from our room.

The view from our room--the oval shape on the right is the stage where the show and music went on.

The ocean and the little man-made island that you could wade to and lounge on.  Lovely pool area.

Bob in Heaven!

Another view of the pool area and the ocean in the back ground.

One of our favorite places in the hotel--the open air dining room.  Bob is wearing his new Jamaican tee shirt which he got lots of compliments about.

 Getting ready for the beach party on Friday night.  They moved tables on to a sandy area and served the buffet there for the beach party.

We sat on the beach and soaked up as much sun as we thought our bodies would allow—Elder Larsen who has a redhead complexion got really burned with very little sun time and Bob got browner and browner.  On Friday evening we sat out on the beach and talked for a couple of hours before going to bed–it was really lovely—the air was just perfect and the sky was clear and bright.

Saturday morning we got up and ate a wonderful buffet breakfast and started back to Spanish Town.  Before we left Mo Bay we drove down into town following the Larsen’s GPS to find the Chapel and get it programmed into our GPS.  With all those “GPSes” we got turned around and took the long way back to the highway. Oh well…We did not hurry getting back to Spanish Town but we did not stop either. We arrived quite early for our 3:00 District Conference meeting so we stopped for pizza at the Larsen’s favorite pizza place in Spanish Town.  

 The colorful chapel in Montego Bay--I'm surprised we needed the GPS to find it.

The conference was really good.  Pres Medley did not mince any words telling particularly the brethren how they should treat and honor their wives and family.  It was a great talk—more pointed than we usually hear at home but much needed here.  Then four women in District leadership positions spoke on coming to Christ.  Every one was very good.  Sister Hendricks spoke and finally Pres Hendricks spoke on the family.  He told a story about a great ornithologist who played classical music in his lab every day for 30 years as he studied his many birds.  One day his new custodian left the windows open all night to air out the lab and in the morning all the birds were gone.  The ornithologist was broken hearted and just turned on his music and sat down with his head in his hands and cried.  After a while he heard the sound of flapping wings and he looked up and saw all his precious birds flying in the open windows.  A great story for illustrating how children trained to recognize the music of the spirit will return through the open windows when they hear the music in their distant wanderings.

Today was also a great session of District Conference.  It was televised from SLC.  Elder Nelson was presiding, Elder Zwick from the Seventy conducted; and Sister Wixom from the Primary and Elder Beck the General YM President spoke.  I particularly enjoyed Elder Nelson’s remarks as he cited many scriptures from the Book of Mormon about the House of Israel who have been scattered to the isles of the sea.  He stressed that the isles of the sea are “rich with the blood of Israel”.  I felt it was very fitting and encouraging to these people of the Caribbean Area.  He also repeated and elaborated on a point that Elder Zwick taught that people should “live the culture of the Lord and forsake the traditions of the world”.  Elder Nelson promised freedom as the resultant blessing.