Friday, April 26, 2013

Good Times and Bad

Thursday 24 April 2013
On Thursday last week we met with Brother Acosta from the DR.  He is going to be over welfare in the Area.  He also is also going to be over employment temporarily.  He was meeting with us to let us know some things that are changing with PEF and Employment.  He was a nice man and it was an informative meeting but I left feeling less than positive again.  We now have a lot more responsibilities that I am not comfortable about.  We came home and got started on them immediately but I don’t know where it is going to go from here because we need to coordinate with District Employment Specialists.  So many unknown things make me tense.—Poor Bob!

Saturday we had a wonderful outing with the senior couples.  We took the mission van to YS Falls.  It is sort of in the south east inland area of the country.  We drove a couple of miles into the country and then paid our fee and got on a covered trailer pulled by a big tractor and went farther inland along a quiet river.  It is a really beautiful green pasture type area with lots of moss and fungi covered trees.  There were beautiful big healthy looking red cows in the pastures as well as some beautiful horses.  This apparently is a working farm owned by one family.  They have opened up the falls area as a side line. 
The falls really are quite lovely--Not particularly tall but cascading into a series of pools and the thick verdant forest with vine draped trees and natural philodendron climbing everywhere.  There are also lots of broad leafed banana type trees and Red Ginger bushes to add a little contrast to the green of the forest trees and bushes.  

The Evans, the Larsens and the Mortensens waiting for the tractor to pull out.

 This kind of shows the cows, the trees and the beautiful pasture.

The water was not deep so people walked across the river in many places.

 This is a tree that is leaning out over the river. You can see all the other bushes and fungi and vines growing all over this one tree.

This is the upper falls.  None of the falls are spectacular by themselves but together they create a beautiful picture.  --and a lovely play spot.

You may not see what you are looking at here.  The tree on the right looks like it is just growing down into a rock but if you look closely at the bottom half of the trunk the root has started out above ground and is about 3 feet high.  You have to look closely because it looks like a big rock at the left of the tree but it is actually the tree root.

 This is another picture you need to look at closely.  On the right side of the tree you can see the vine growing up the side of the tree but can you see about every 2 inches on the vine there is a tiny runner wrapping around the tree.  That tree will never get away!

We hiked up the steep steps and watched as many people played in the various pools and then sat on a bench and watched people take a zip line first across the river then up above the falls and then down all along the river and falls to the bottom.  I’ll bet their view was beautiful—if they had time to see it as they zipped along among the tree tops.

Here you can see the guy in red on the zip line above the river while the people play in the water below.

There was a really lovely play area below the falls with two big swimming pools, a gift shop, a large grassy area and several cabanas out of the sun with tables for eating our picnic lunch.  It was nice to see a lot of people there and still not have it be crowded.  We did not have all our senior couples with us—only four couples, so it was a little more intimate and comfortable deciding what everyone wanted to do.  

 Such a beautiful place.  Everywhere you look is beautiful and peaceful. 

 This is in the grassy picnic area at the bottom of the falls where the swimming pools and the gift shop are.  That tree in the back is huge if you can't tell.

 Bob, Larsens, and Evans

We really had a wonderful time but we had a little accident in the parking lot as we were leaving that sort of put a damper on the day.  Elder Larsen always has to drive.  He is the dependable, steady, serving, caretaker for all the rest of us.  Everyone always sort of looks to him to take care of things—not necessarily to be the leader but to take care of the rest of us.  The cars obviously get very hot sitting in the sun so he usually reaches in and turns on the car so the air conditioning can start cooling the car off before we all get in and settled—so we don’t have to sit in the hot car.--A very sweet thoughtful thing to do.  Well everyone else was already in the van and the Evans and Bob and I were still putting our things in the back.  Elder Larsen was waiting for us and reached in and turned on the car forgetting that this is the only standard transmission vehicle in the mission.  It started rolling back and those of us behind it had to scramble backward.  Bob was in the middle and was really stumbling, I was able to move off to the side as was Elder Evans but Sister Evans was knocked down and was actually under the back of the van by the time Elder Larsen realized what was happening and turned the key off and stopped the van.  I saw that Bob was actually okay and rushed to help Elder Evans pull Sister Evans out from under the van and get her on her feet.  I was afraid the wheel was actually going to go over her(she is quite little) but I think she may have been a little to the side when we actually got to her.  It all happened so fast it is hard to remember what I actually saw and what I imagined.  In my head I kept telling Bob to jump into the back of the van, but I am not sure where I was even standing.  I do know I saw Sister Evans go down and saw her lower body disappear under the van.  She says he pulled her from under the van but I remember him saying “Oh Doll, Oh Doll”—that is what he calls her, and I got to her while she was still on the ground.  I was not sure she should get up until she had assessed her injuries, but I helped her up into the arms of her worried husband.

Thankfully she was not too badly hurt.  She skinned one knee and got two goose eggs on her head, and hurt her hand a little.  But mostly she was shaken up by what could have happened—as were the rest of us.  I think the one who was hurt the worst was Elder Larsen.  He is so good and kind and was only trying to make others comfortable and caused an accident that could have really hurt someone.  He was very upset though of course no one even considered blaming him.  And because he was so upset Sister Larsen was upset.  

To make things worse—or maybe better—when the van rolled it also hit and took the mirror off the car parked next to us.  The good part was that this helped distract Elder Larsen.  Elder Mortensen was wonderful too, he was a great help working with the car owner after he was located back at the falls and brought down to deal with his car damage.  Thankfully he was very good to deal with and did not cause any more concern.  But after dealing with him for what seemed like a very long time we had to find a police station in the next little town to report the accident.  So from the time of the accident we lost probably an hour and a half before we were on our long way home again.  

Going to the police station was an interesting experience.  It was up what seemed to be a rural side road.  We were told it was a blue building and that was good to know as there was no sign to identify it.  There were tons of crashed cars in the parking lot so it looked more like a junk yard than a police station.  But there was one patrol car present which was our only hint.  We pulled into the parking lot and then pulled out again and stopped and asked a woman on the street who of course sent us back to the same place.  There was a dog barking in the parking lot also which would have deterred me from getting out but Elder Mortensen braved it.  Elders Larsen and Mortensen went in to make the report while the rest of us waited.  Apparently everything had to be hand written so it took a long time.

Anyway that was our adventure—Sister Evans ended up with a really ugly black eye, but she has an incredible quiet, positive attitude.  They are the missionaries I have referred to before who were arrested in Guyana and had to spend the night in a horrible filthy jail.  She never seems to get ruffled and never lets anything turn into a big deal.  I love her—both of them.

On Sunday we had a Job Seminar at one of our local branches so we did not have to travel.  This also made it possible for us to attend a training from the Area Employment director.  It was good training and the employment program is really impressive but I still have reservations.  I am determined to let the local employment directors—newly called—do their best to implement as much of the program as they can without any negative input from us.  There are many things that they should be able to use to help the people here but there does not seem to have been any attempt to adapt the program to a “branches and district” situation instead of 'wards and stakes'.  We will work with them and help as much as we can—and I hope keep our mouths shut as much as we can.  I also sincerely hope we are dead wrong about how this program will work here.

Our job seminar went okay but we did not have as many people as we expected for such a large branch.  We have actually made about 10 sets of mini resumes for people in that branch already because they have heard about the Job Seminar from someone else.  

Monday we met with Pres Brown for a few minutes to discuss all that is happening.   Tuesday and Wednesday we barely left our computers and phones—sometimes not even to eat.  I did leave long enough to meet with Kerry but came straight home and back to work.  We are trying to get one of the tasks the Area gave us to identify branch and district leaders who are unemployed so they can be targeted first for employment help.  We are trying to establish it so the District Employment people can take it over even before we leave. 

We took a break Thursday morning to run out to Yallahs with the Larsens to deliver a couple of bundles of clothing to be distributed to the branch members.  A couple of times a year the Humanitarian department sends big bundles of clothes (so heavy neither Bob nor I could budge them!) to the branches so we just helped deliver them.  We had planned to go on an overnight outing with the Larsens since they will be leaving pretty soon but we decided not to go and just have dinner in the evening.  When we got home from Yallahs Bob started working again and I started writing my journal.  At about 4:30 we got a couple of messages that sent us into high gear trying to solve problems and communicate some important things.  So I had to call the Larsens to tell them we would be late.  But we got there and had a nice Chinese dinner with our good friends.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Inspiration and Alligators

Wednesday 17 April 2013

 I thought I would just show you a picture of one of my Fans.  This is Odean Hayden the security guard at our apartments.  He thinks I am a good driver because I can get those darn trucks into the tiny parking spaces we have here!  I have only scraped two fenders--which is nothing compared to the rest of the scars those poor trucks carry form other drivers!  Anyway Odean is a really nice young man and he thinks I am a good driver!

I was really impressed with General Conference and had taken a couple of pages of good notes on my iPad but as I was studying some other things I ended up deleting my notes so I guess I will have to listen to the talks again and take more notes.  Part of what I was studying has become a very important for me in the past couple of weeks.  The Monday after Conference we had a PEF meeting.  While we were waiting for the meeting Pres Brown was talking to us and the Wrights about a book he was reading called The Holy Secret by James Farrell.  He is the author of The Peacegiver of a few years ago, which I really loved.  Pres Brown was so excited and amazed by what he was learning and thinking about and I remembered my experience with the Peacegiver so I downloaded The Holy Secret and began reading it.  Pres Brown was right!  It is an amazing book for getting you to think about the scriptures and how to learn from them and how to try to apply what you learn to how you are living.  I hope my life is forever changed and I have not even finished the book yet even though it is very small.  

I have been enjoying my scripture study about 1000% more than I have been lately because I have been focusing on some of the points of the book and really thinking about what the scriptures are teaching.  I have had insights and learned things I have never thought of or seen before in the scriptures I thought I was very familiar with.  I cannot help being very impressed with James Farrell, a young man who was actually a student of mine at Shorecrest High School.  He has done amazing research and thinking and brought out many things I have never heard or thought about.  But mostly I have been grateful for the enhanced scripture study I have enjoyed—and will continue to enjoy as I finish the last half of the book.

We ended up having a long and fairly productive PEF meeting which lasted an hour longer than usual.  That was okay in that we were not going to the mission home as usual for FHE but the problem was that the Larsens were waiting for us at The Jade Garden where we planned to have dinner together.  The Wrights ended up going with us and we had a nice time.  I came home and immediately downloaded the book to which I was referring.

Tues we were about to go out on some errands when Kerry (I have been spelling it Carrie in former entries.) called to see if we were going to meet today.  I would have put her off except she was already at the Church, so we hurried down to the Church where I met with her for a while and then off to our errands and back to our computers.


We'll start with some of the beautiful birds we saw on our Black River outing. Then we will see some of the less attractive wild life.


On Thursday we went with the Larsens and her friend Trudy to Black River for a little boat ride with the alligators!  I don’t know why particularly but I was a little surprised to see the alligator habitat.  They are in the mouth of the river as it goes out into the ocean.  As a matter of fact they go out in the sand and rocks of the ocean beach to lay their eggs.  Some of these alligators are pretty big and there are apparently a lot of them in Black River.  They are territorial so have their own little niche in the tree roots and bramble where they hang out, so it was pretty easy for the guide to find them and point them out to us.  He feeds them chicken to get them to come closer to the boat to get pictures.  He was pretty interesting as we spent about an hour on the river with him telling us lots of different things about the river and alligators and Jamaica.  Black River gets its name because of some algae or vegetation that grows in the river bottom that makes the water look really black, but when collected in a bottle it is completely clear—he said it is not good for drinking because it is a little salty from the ocean and alligator you know what.  Some people (including Bob, of course) tasted it—NOT me!

 We started our adventure at the alligator nursery.  There were many alligators of various sizes that are getting ready to go back into the river as soon as they are able to fend for themselves.  One had the top tip of his snout broken off in a fight so he will not be able to catch food or defend himself so he will not be going back to the river.

This was our cute and informative guide--I don't remember his name.

They are not pretty but they are sort of fascinating and scary at the same time. Just the idea of falling into the river gives me the creeps.

Black River is very beautiful and interesting its self even without the wildlife.  

These tree roots that go down into the water apparently become hollow and therefore like straws sucking water into the trees.  

 You can see the blackness of the Black River.

We had hoped to stop at YS Falls on the way home but we missed the turn off and felt a little pressed for time, so we just stopped in the Bamboo Avenue and ate our picnic lunch in the air conditioned car.  We had a nice time and enjoyed Trudy’s company.  We are going with the senior couples to YS Falls this week anyway so it was okay to miss it.

I think I mentioned another time that this bamboo was planted by Chinese sugar cane field workers many years  ago to provide some shade to rest in.  I don't know if they introduced bamboo to the island but it is everywhere now and really adds a lacy loveliness to the forests.

 The bamboo is sort of in clusters but the branches arch over the road and make it a lovely tunnel. It is called Bamboo Alley.

The highlight of Friday was Pres Brown’s Institute class.  I could really feel the influence of the book he (and I) have been reading.  He was teaching about making ourselves “strangers” to the Lord and to the Spirit.  He really is trying to get these young people to understand and really feel a strong relationship with the Savior and understand his atonement.  I was very touched and inspired but even I (who I hope is a little more spiritually mature) have a long way to go for having a strong relationship with the Lord.—but I am working on it.  On the other hand the comments of some of these young people really astound me.  Some of them really do spend time pondering scriptures and things of the kingdom.  They make comments about things they have been thinking about that cause me to respect them and condemn myself.  I lack so much in that area.

Saturday we got an update from Elder Gay, who is over PEF, that sort of put a different spin on our missionary activities that day—and for the rest of our mission probably.  We are going to be more involved in preparing for the changes that are going to be occurring in the next year in PEF, Employment and Self Reliance.  It is a wonderful program but its implementation is going to be difficult in Jamaica and frankly I was hoping to be gone before the hard work began. 

Sunday we started the last half of our Job seminars.  (We have 8 left to go.)  We got up a little early and drove to Mandeville which is about an hour and a half away.  It was a little different branch.  I really enjoyed the Testimony meeting and hearing the testimonies and feeling that spirit.  The Sunday School teacher was pretty good but I am not sure where he was going with his lesson or what he intended when it was over.  There was a good discussion though and evidence of some good gospel scholarship and understanding.  The Relief Society President was absent so a sister substituted who was not prepared so it was mostly some comments about prayer and then practicing a song the RS women will sing on Saturday at the funeral of a 32 year old young returned missionary who suddenly died last week leaving a wife and a couple of children.  They were trying to sing the song acapella and were having the typical hard time staying on tune so I offered to play it on my iPad.  We all crowded around the iPad and tried to sing the song but it was difficult to hear while we sang and there were a couple of passages with some triplets in the music which no one got—we ended up singing it over about 6 times which of course took most of the class time. 

Our Job Seminar went pretty well with about 15 participants.  We were going to stay and do the mini resumes before coming home but the Wrights who live in Junction, about 30-45 minutes from Mandeville invited us to dinner.  So we drove a little farther into the country and had a nice dinner and visit with the Wrights and then went home.  Though it was not as far as some of the places we have gone to we were quite tired when we finally arrived home—it was a long day.  

Some interesting faces in Mandeville:  Sister Evans, Sister Nauatu (leaving this week) and Samantha of the RS presidency.

Brother Allen.

Sister Smith and Sister Spence.

Brother Haugg.

 Sister Thompson the Seminary Teacher.

Monday I got the mini resumes done except for the cutting so they would be ready for the Wrights to take back to Mandeville for us.  Then we had to go out and do some grocery shopping and a Pricesmart run.  We stopped at the office for a minute and I had a chance to visit with Pres Brown for a few minutes about The Holy Secret and his institute class.  We had a nice time sharing until he finished his lunch and had to go off and deal with others who needed his time.  His replacement is going to be hired this week.  It is going to be a young man we have respected and enjoyed since we met him.  He taught institute class one evening and we suspected he may have been auditioning.  He is quite good but doesn’t have the dynamic personality or energy of Pres Brown but he has a really good mind and spirit and the ability to understand the scriptures and teach.  He will be good.

Wrights came on Tuesday and we spent several hours trying to fulfill our assignment to make some suggestions for that would make the program more user friendly to our Jamaican job seekers.  It is fun to work with the Wrights.  He is very organized and practical and has a very logical analytical mind so we have enjoyed and appreciated their help on a couple of projects we have done.  Plus they are so nice and pleasant to be with.  After we finished our work we went to the taco place for “taco Tuesday” and had salads!  

When we came home I made some phone calls and had a particularly good chat with a young woman who has had a place in my heart since we got here.  She is the one I wrote about before who was stranded in Kingston because of what the hurricane did to the roads headed north.  She was in church dressed in jeans and we assumed she may be an investigator.  During class she leaned on me like one of my nieces might when she talked to me.  I was taken by her right away.  Well she is having some difficulties now and feeling very alone so I was glad to talk to her and give her some support and encouragement.  I think she will be okay because she is very well founded in the gospel and has a really good testimony but it is hard to be and feel alone.  I’ll keep in touch with her and see her in fact in a couple of weeks when we visit her branch for our job seminar.

We just got back from a meeting with Pres Brown—to present the project the Wrights and we were working on.  He is already starting to feel the responsibilities of the mission president.  And he has lots of concerns about when we leave and what will happen to PEF.  It is nice to know he feels we have made a huge difference here and really brought the program to heights he never could have with all his responsibilities as Institute director in charge of PEF.  It is hard to think about what will happen when we leave and who will take care of and love “our kids” the way we do.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Little Family Time

Sunday 7 April 2013

General Conference was wonderful.  I really felt we were being focused on the Savior and putting our trust and faith in him and his love for us.  There must be an awfully lot of people in the world who are feeling alone and down and in need of lots of support.  I hope they are able to hear and feel the truth of the messages of this conference and find some hope and peace in their lives.  I feel sort of guilty because my life is so good and I probably take for granted the atonement and love of the Savior and Heavenly Father. 
Monday we went to Montego Bay to spend a couple of days in the sun at a beautiful resort with Steve and Regina and their kids.  We swam in the ocean and the lovely pool and floated in the lazy river drinking non-alcoholic pina colatas.  I am still paying though because I didn’t really keep track of how much sun I was getting and got a pretty bad sunburn on my back.  Bob even got a little sunburned which surprised us both.   

The Rose Hall Hilton Resort.  

On Tuesday we played in the water and then drove to Ocho Rios and showed the kids Fern Gully and got to see the Ocho Church when Pres Lester called us totally out of the blue.  We were planning to see him the next day but he called us on Tues for no reason.  Anyway we got to meet him at the Church and so they were able to see our little Ocho Rios Branch meeting place up the yellow stairway through the bright red door.  Then we walked down the street looking for a place to get Jerk Chicken.  Whitney especially took a liking to the Jerk Chicken.  McKenzie got a few minutes to shop in the market so everyone was happy. 

Some of the lovely foliage and unusual ferns in Fern Gully

We drove down in to Fern Gully and found a nice place to stop and take pictures.  Steve McKenzie, and Whitney

 Steve and Regina and their kids among the strange roots of the big tree at the entrance of Mystic Mountain in Ocho.

Wednesday we swam for a little while before leaving to meet Pres Lester in Ocho Rios. We had a project we were working on with him so we met him and then drove on home.  It was a lovely little vacation—except for the sunburn—and except that we missed Zone Conference and hearing the Larsens and Smiths bear their farewell testimonies.  They will be going home before the next Zone Conference.  

 This aqueduct apparently brought water down from the sugar plantation a hundred years ago.  It makes a nice addition to the golf course.

 Bob and I went walking on the golf course in the morning before we left.  It was beautiful.  Others are out sailing and kayaking already.

Bob and Steve and Whitney in the Lazy River.

 Steve and Regina and the kids in the Lazy River.  It wasn't so lazy when they tried to get each other caught under the water falls, but it was fun.

Thursday we started on our monthly phone calls and then we got a call from someone in DR who wanted us to be part of a conference video call with a company who wants to recruit a sales rep here in Jamaica.  We sent out email to about 10 people we thought might be qualified and interested.  So far we have heard from only one person.  

Friday we worked all day then went to Wendy’s for a salad for dinner before going to Institute.  We did not get to stay long at Institute class however as  a woman came up and asked us if we could take her and her son to the hospital because he had fallen and cut his forehead.  He came up today at conference and gave me a sweet hug and said thank you for taking him to the hospital.  That was nice.  But even though we did not stay with them at the hospital we were near home and it was late so we did not go back to class.  I was sorry to miss it.

Saturday and Sunday were both spent at the Church for conference.  Saturday night we met at the Mission Home and all the men carpooled to Priesthood meeting and we women stayed at the mission home and visited while we waited for them to come back for banana splits.  That was fun.  Today after the morning session of conference we drove home along a parade route.  When we got home our security guard, Odean told us it was for Carnival and that the “Long March” was going to be down that street and come back on the only other street we know of to get to the church.  So we decided to stay home and watch conference on the internet which worked out just fine.  We are only about 3 blocks away from the parade route so we heard all the music and the fun—for quite a long time.  And even now we have entertainment from our favorite club down the street!