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.


  1. OK, love the bamboo, but you can keep the alligators! Gives me the creeps, too, also that Bob tasted the water! Does he need a shot?

    You do good posts, Tone. Glad you are having such a good experience.

  2. It sounds like you are having such a blast!! So jealous! (Also, I'm glad to hear that there is someone there taking on the role of a pseudo-niece while we're so far away.) ;)