Saturday, December 1, 2012

Thoughts from Trinidad

So much has happened since Thanksgiving!

  Remember I told you about the high walls and fences around all the mansions.  Here's the welcome sign that adorns almost all the gates and fences.  Apparently this SWAT company comes blazing to the residence heavily armed if anyone attempts to get in. We are not going to test the theory!  We did have to climb over a fellow Elder and Sister's fence two nights ago in my skirt and with all our stuff.  We didn't get electrocuted so that was good.  More explanation later.
 This display reminded us a little of our former neighbors in Naperville.  Well, it was missing the leg lamp window....but it did have three Santa and sleigh displays. 

 It also had a huge nativity......behind steel bars and protected by a SWAT team.  Seems a bit ironic, huh?
 This is a picture of one of three chapels in Trinidad.  There are four chapels (wards) and three branches.  This is Port of Spain ward last Sunday.  The hugging couple is a son who spoke....just returned from his mission.....and his mom, after he gave a great talk! 
 Just after Sacrament meeting.  The chapel is like the Hawaii chapels.  Open to the outside with fans moving the air through the room. 
 I attended Young Women and Elder Monson attended Young Men. The teacher was teaching a lesson on talents and started it by having the girls cut folded paper to illustrate that each one is unique.  They were so proud of their creations.  This ward is the strongest in the stake.  The girl in the middle tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Oh sister Monson, thank you so much for your talk!  I will never forget it.  I will always remember you saying that men are piranhas!"  We are still really struggling with Trini talk....which is English spoken with a Trini accent.  Seriously, we should have learned French!  At least we could have defaulted to English.   Here in Trini, they speak soooooo fast, cut off the end of every word and instead of th or t sounds they use the d sound.  So, for instance, we are working wid da ute!  Translated: (with the youth)  So most the time, I smile and nod my head and get about every third word and make assumptions about the rest.  Elder Monson just looks at me searchingly to fill in the blanks since he misses even more due to his hearing loss.  Sooooooo my response, nod my head, pat her hand etc.  On the way home in the car it all came together.  Sister Mehr, the mission president's wife has curly hair my length and she is my height and .....WE ALL LOOK THE SAME!!  We are all white!  The stake president told us that and we had to laugh!   Later, when we met with Pres. and Sister Mehr I asked her if she told the girls in Port of Spain that men are piranhas?  She was appalled.  When I explained, we laughed so hard.  She had been teaching standards and morals and described the frenzied feeding of piranhas with what happens to men when girls dress immodestly and the importance of dressing so they will attract good men not the piranha variety!  Such is communication in Trinidad! 

 YES!!  We found Trader Joes!!!  Unfortunately, it sells wholesale car parts !
A beautiful rainbow over the Trini sky after one of the frequent warm gentle rain storms.  As in Hawaii, we just walk through them.
Because of the heat, all the clothes dryers are on the outside of the houses.  Interesting, huh?
See the overhead sign.  This is the entrance to the mission office where we work, conduct interviews, have our morning devotional, and report every morning.  
This is the view from our office.  It is in a shopping center. 
The entrance to our office.  There is heavy security everywhere.  We enter with a keypad.
The table in the mission president's office at which we work when we are in the office.The mission president has asked us to assess the YSA and youth programs for the whole mission to determine how those programs across the entire mission can be lifted and improved.  To determine the starting point, we have been interviewing the Stake President, District Presidents, branch presidents and bishops, senior couples, zone leaders, YSA reps, youth, stake leaders, CES and Seminary teachers.  They comprise 9 countries, three languages, seven currencies. We are skyping, interviewing, calling and learning.  Last night we met some of the most noble young people we have ever met.  They are the oldest and youngest in a family of 10.  Five boys and three girls.  The parents are a drug addict Dad and an alcoholic mom.  At 19 this young man took it upon himself to remove all his younger brothers and sisters from their home to a safer place.  He figured out how to wire electricity and dig ditches for water to be brought into the old empty house and worked at a poultry farm to support them.  He felt impressed to read the Bible and read everything he could about Jesus.  He described the experience he had after reading as in the day of Pentecost.  A fire in his heart and a certain knowledge that Jesus lives and loves him.  He said that later as the missionaries taught him and he read the Book of Mormon, he felt that same feeling and knew that the Church of Jesus Christ is just that....Christ's church.  He now is in the branch presidency and his youngest sister is the YSA representative and single handedly calls every single YSA in her branch and holds activities every Friday.  They inspired us so much!  We are thankful to get to know them and work with them.
 Our first pday outing.  We went together to a Hindu temple, observed a Hindu burial on the beach and a Trini wedding in our backyard.
 Working with some of the best people we have ever known.  Becoming really good friends.

 The Hindu Monkey God.  There are hundreds of Deities. We saw several today.

 The base of the monkey God where flowers and food is laid as an offering.
 The Hindu Temple.
 The temple was decorated for a wedding today.  This is where the groom begins the journey into the temple to meet his bride. 
 The entrance to the temple adorned with multiple Deities.
 The place where the couple stands to be married. There are red lights throughout the temple because red is the color of love.
 Another view of the platform.
 A side tribute to another Deity.
 Notice the ceiling, walls, florals, etc. for the wedding all flooded with red lights.
 You must read the rules on the grounds.  No loose talk.  Mind your own business.

 Each flag represents a different Deity.
 An offering to the following Deities.

 As we left the temple we went to the burial of a beautiful young Indian woman.  She is in a wooden open casket here.  She was lifted out of the hearse with flowers on her.  They put the wooden casket on the ground, removed the flowers, added wood sticks around her, put spices and mixtures on the wood, lit a fabric torch and lit it around the pyre after lifting the casket inside.

 You can see her casket inside the pyre now.
 You can see the leader reaching in with the torch and lighting the sticks on her chest after praying.

 It was an amazing experience seeing all the people standing in the rain while the pyre burned.
 We returned home and in the yard of our temporary housing there was a Trini wedding going on. We will not be able to be in our permanent apartment until December 10th.  I had an allergic reaction to the mold in the carpeting in the initial apartment so we are living out of our suitcase  until we can move.
Life and death in the Trinidad culture!


  1. I remembered today that you had a blog! I have LOVED reading about your first adventures. Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience with us back home. Love you guys!

  2. I love reading these. We love you guys.

  3. Dear Dwight and Marilynn, Kurt and I are so excited for you to be on a mission--and in Trinidad! I admit that I had to look up Trinidad to learn more about the "Land of Hummingbirds" and home of Calypso and the Steel Pan. Your stories and photos make it come to life, people and places. I had to laugh picturing you guys climbing over that fence to get into the apartment--and the piranha story was also classic. I'm with Judy--I'm a little green too. I loved reading your inspiring farewell talks and seeing pictures of you with the family. Thank you for blogging so we can share your experiences. We love you and will think of you often!

  4. I feel like I am right there with you as I read your blog. You are doing amazing work there.

  5. Marilynn, its WenDee. I'm so glad I found your blog...just looked on facebook. What an amazing experience you are having! I am actually very envious and hope that this is in the cards for Gary and I and possibly Marcus. All is well here but I miss you and will really miss you when we get together for Christmas. Tell Dwight hello and we will keep you both in our prayers. Love you

  6. Amazing! We love you guys and look forward to your blog updates!

  7. This is Afton Southam (Parker), my mom just sent our fam this blog--SO cool! I didn't know you guys were there, what an amazing area to serve in! I love all the fascinating pictures, I had no idea the strong eastern religion influence there. I like all the signs and other shots you posted too. I'm sure you guys are awesome missionaries! Love, Afton