Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Parting Thoughts

We don't have a template for this kind of move, so we are learning by the seat of our pants.  We weren't prepared for so many visits and gifts, so much kindness and so many household things to sort out and  give away.  The good-byes are hard, but we are so thankful to have friends now from many Latin countries and new friends from the States as well.  Thanks to facebook, we can keep up with the friends we have grown to love.

One thing I wont miss is the stinky office smells.  We have been surprised on Monday mornings with the smell of stale McDonald's, rotten garbage and fuel from the building generator.  The latest smell was partly my fault.  With motherly candor, I was cautioning the elders about the bacterial medium in the kitchen affectionately known as the "office sponge".  It sits in a container filled with a solid soap and it is always soggy, wet and contaminated.  They wash their drinking cups in water that isn't filtered, using this disgusting sponge.  I told them they should microwave it once or twice a week to decontaminate it.  Elder Morrow microwaved it....but for four minutes.  The smell was overpowering to us, and probably not very welcome in the surgical office next door to us.  It took half a day to deodorize the place.

We're heading to Guatemala City in the morning, where we will spend the night.  Thursday at noon we'll fly back to the U.S. for a long awaited reunion with our Minnesota family.  In October we'll head to Utah to see two of our daughters, then on to Idaho where Mike's 93 year-old mom is waiting with open arms to see him again.  Life is good. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Last Hurrah

Life was beginning to get crazy here, as we started to train our replacements and mail our Guatemalan goodies home.  We decided to invite the office missionaries for an American lunch before departing.  They enjoy Mike's chili, so he made a big pot of it and I made some cornbread to go with it.  It was fun to have some time to visit during lunch and to know they were eating well.

Elder Morrow is the new financial secretary and Mike's replacement.

Elder Lemus was only two days from leaving the mission and his replacement had everything under control.  This left Elder Lemus bored to tears; so, he kindly consented to decorate my mission "baggy".  Now I am collecting contact information and parting messages from missionaries who stop by the office before we leave.

Elder Lemus has studied graphic design and took a few rather unimpressive materials and made this very fun cover for our baggy.  Did I mention that he has a sense of humor too?

This is "The Cave" where Elder Morrow and his companion, Elder Funk live.  The watch in the left corner is designating noon, not midnight.  This depressing little apartment is about to be vacated for one more suited to their needs-like the need for sunlight.

Elder Funk is my replacement.  He is doing very well, especially considering the fact that these geese wake them at 5:30 every morning.  It's a good thing for the geese that they are behind a fence, or they might become dinner.

Things are going to get better for these guys in a day or two.

The shower was clearly not built for tall Americans.  Elder Morrow gets to practice his deep knee bends every morning in this shower.

The Santa Maria volcano takes on a different look every evening before sunset and it's always spectacular.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We're up Next!

Tuesday was our last new missionary orientation.  Our tradition has been to leave the mission home and go out to lunch after these meetings, to unwind after the challenging days of preparation preceding changes.  We like to go to Giordino's, an oven-fired pizza place with a beautiful outdoor patio dining room.  We relaxed in the sunshine and enjoyed a pizza leisurely before heading back to the office.

Today we said more good-byes at the Alamo bus station.  Elder Lemus was a secretary in the office until he left and we'll miss him a lot.  He has a real creative streak and brought the mission newsletter to new graphic design heights.  He's heading back to Honduras and he has a list of all the food he's going to have his mom make for him when he gets home.

Elders Chicas, Callejas and Carter are all wearing their corte ties.  They are made from the traditional Guatemalan corte cloth and are a favorite of the missionaries here.  Despite what good young men they are, there is a bit of tie envy in the mission.

Elder Kinghorn (left) is anxiously awaiting his parents' arrival this morning from Guatemala City.  They will arrive in a little over an hour to meet him, having not seen him for two years.

Hermanas Rangel and Nisthal are the only young women leaving this change.  

We love being in the office when parents come to pick up their missionaries.  This reunion for Elder Kinghorn was very sweet.  Mothers always get the first hug.

Father/son bonding time as they prepare to leave for some touring of Guatemala.  The missionaries are a little lost at first; they hardly know what to do with the free time they have when they leave the mission.  Elder Kinghorn will be a missionary until he returns to his home to be released, then only two days at home before he leaves for college at BYU.  Three weeks from today we'll be leaving the mission.  Until then we'll be boxing up more Guatemalan goodies to mail home, as we keep finding great stuff we can't live without.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Love of Dear Friends

As we wrap up the final month of our mission we have to say good-bye to our very special Guatemalan friends.  Mama Oli came over last night with her family to bring a traditional Guatemalan dinner and to celebrate our friendship.  The food was amazing and the company even better.  

Just me and my girlfriends....

I had some cookie dough in the refrigerator, so we decided to bake some dessert afterward.  

After dinner Mama Oli teases us by threatening to throw my exercise ball at us.

In just under two years we have shared joys and sorrows, sickness and health, calm and tragedy with our friends Rosy and Jaime.  It's difficult to comprehend how many things have tried all of us.  This family has a place in our hearts forever as we prepare to leave.

Marvin is another special friend.  He helps us at the correo with the mountain of mail the mission receives.  We occasionally take him plates of cookies to share with his family.  He makes my job as mission pouchero so much easier, especially when he directs us in and out of the door to the correo in our car when the streets outside are barely wide enough for one car and traffic is bumper to bumper.  

Signing off for the packages we have received for the last time.  Next week I'll take my replacement (a young missionary) to introduce him to Marvin and the process of sending/receiving mail in Guatemala.  We are so thankful for the dedicated postal workers and how carefully they handle our correspondence.

Saying good-bye to Hermana Villeda over birthday cake for her companion, Hermana Canfield.  They are about to separate, as Hermana Villeda is returning to El Salvador.  

Hermana Villeda's family arrives from El Salvador to drive her home.  They lived in Minnesota for several years, so it was delightful to chat with them.  One of her brothers is about to receive his mission call, so we will be excited to hear where he will be assigned.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

P-Day Baking

Elder Marriott (left) is the general secretary for the mission.  He is in charge of the office overall and his specific job is managing missionary travel.  It's a challenging position, so when he wanted to make one of his favorite recipes from college, we agreed to provide the needed supplies. Elder Marriott made these himself; I was the clean-up guy. These are his favorite red velvet cheesecake brownies.  Elder Lemus (right) is from Honduras and he would prefer to make coconut/pecan bars.  We agreed to make these today, and I'll make Elder Lemus his favorite when he leaves the Mission in two weeks.  

We have just 5 weeks to go and it's a little scary thinking about sorting things out here and preparing to leave the mission.  We've had some challenges the last two weeks, so it looks like we'll be heading home with the same degree of chaos that we experienced when we came into the mission.  It must be a good way to prevent dementia, because my brain is so busy I don't have the luxury of a brain slow down.

One thing is for sure:  There will be lots of baking going on the next month as we use up our stored U.S. baking supplies.  More pig out bars, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, etc.  We have several birthdays this month too, so we will have to make some cakes too.  

We are grateful to have been pushed out of our comfort zone, as we would never have chosen anything this extreme, had we calculated all the ramifications beforehand.  I find myself still in a little disbelief at all we've encountered.  It's good that I have photos to prove it!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Santiaguito Volcano

This morning before we headed to the office, we looked out our bedroom room window that faces the Santa Maria volcano.  Behind Santa Maria, is her little sister, Santiaguito.  She was putting on a gorgeous display for us....larger than we have seen in the past.

Santiaguito is an active volcano and the eruption was clearly visible in the clear morning sky.  Our taxi driver, Jaime, has driven people to see the nighttime eruptions and lava flow, but they view it from the safety of Santa Maria.  I was curious to see what it would look like from an explorer's view and found this blog video of adventurers backpacking up the volcano and spending the night on Santiaguito herself. This is an amazing video.  Photos on top-video at the bottom of the page:


All the while this beautiful eruption is taking place, below us at the Max store (Guatemala's Best Buy) this local woman is sorting through the trash container for cardboard and wood, which she deftly loads onto her head and then walks away casually with her strange cargo.  The guys in the Max parking lot wait in this spot every morning for the not-very-punctual manager to open the store.  They hardly notice the woman's efforts to survive by dumpster diving.  Not sure if she uses the cardboard for fuel for her cooking, or if she sells it somehow.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Saying Goodbye Again

This is a purely Mormon thing, I'll admit.  We understand what a phenomenal challenge it is for a young person to leave home for 1 1/2 years (young women)  or 2 years (young men) to labor 6.3 days/week to serve as a missionary in the church.  As we see them off at the Alamo bus depot here in Xela, we're touched by how much affection they have for one another and how well they have served.  Hermana Velasquez (left) is heading back to Honduras, Hermana Sanchez (middle) to Argentina and Hermana Batschi to Seattle, Washington.  

Elder Parry (left) served for 19 months of his mission in Quiche-that's a long time in one zone, especially to have served as a branch president for much of that time.  Elder Dautel was with him in Quiche for part of that time.

Our dear friend, Hermana Batschi was the second mission nurse who served in the office with us.  We have a lot of shared experiences, good and not so much.   She has been a cheerful trooper, despite many difficulties along the way.  To say that she is excited to return to her home is quite an understatement.  

Elder Hansen served in the office twice-once as general secretary and again as an assistant to the president.  He will do well in whatever he sets his mind to do.