This week I thought I would start out with a, "welcome to the culture of Trinidad," lesson. The underlying principle could be stated thus: Laws and Rules are not meant to be rigid----they are only guidelines!Three examples follow:
One would suppose at first glance that the object before you is a measuring cup! This item is usually precise and dependable! Just one of those things you can count on. Not so here! Some factory somewhere stamps the various measurements on the line wherever on the cup it happens to be in the assembly line. The one cup measurement may be one cup OR it may actually hold one and 3/ 8ths cup. You better check!!!!
Likewise, the first time I tried to bake cinnamon rolls and cookies, the bottoms were burned way before the time usually required to cook those items. So, silly me, I assumed it was the extremely dark pans causing the problem. The next time, (we take treats to people often) I thought I had the problem licked when I covered the bottom of the pans with tin foil. Not so! The bottoms still burned in minutes flat! OK, I thought to myself, the temperature on the ovens just must be guidelines too! Yes! 350 degrees at home is 330 degrees in my house. However, don't get too comfortable with that and make it a rule! The next stove you have might read 312 degrees for 350 degrees.
The final example of this principle is driving here. This is our mission car. Pretty nice huh? There is absolutely no road rage here. The Trinidad people are infinitely patient and wait in traffic jams for hours without loosing their cool! They just adapt and adjust. For instance, today we were driving on a two way road home from a YSA activity and there was a huge line, maybe twenty cars in a line and the car behind us decided to be resourceful and just drive into the oncoming traffic until he got to the front of the line and then pull back onto his side of the road. Guidelines, only guidelines! Driving here reminds me of driving in Boston, you just do whatever seems reasonable, or not, to get where you want to go. We have seen some amazingly resourceful solutions to traffic jams...... like, just go in front of everyone and while we all watch, quickly look both ways (for the ever absent cops) and just drive through the red traffic light and go merrily on your way, or drive over the grass, over dividers, over anything obstructing your path!
Our children told us they are looking out their windows at snow and freezing temperatures....just thought I would post the picture we see looking out our window from our office in our apartment. The temperature all year hovers around 80 degrees. It rains off and on everyday but everyone just goes through it, the sun shines again in a few minutes!
Search for Elder Monson at the YSA health and fitness activity Saturday morning. We warmed up, led by a local dance instructor, and then walked three miles around a beautiful park in downtown Port of Spain, returned to the chapel and had breakfast.
Seriously, I look so clutzy and incredibly pale in this picture, I hope you can't find me! However, the complexion disadvantage tends to make us stick out a bit! I am so accustomed to only seeing dark skin now that I look in the mirror and go....ugh...what is wrong with my albino skin!!!
The first females coming in during the 3 mile race with their healthy trophy!
The first contestants in the 3 mile race with their trophys. We were actually not the very last! We were relieved!
After the YSA activity, we went to an overlook spot in Port of Spain to take this picture for you.
You can see the high rise buildings in the downtown area from here. Also the port, the location in the center of town where the chapel is located and amazingly enough....the ocean! We never see it unless we go to Port of Spain.
The same location with a shot to the left of the downtown area. It is a beautiful overlook.
While at the overlook, we saw one of the repeated and very sad images of Trinidad. With so much poverty, pets roam wild, starving, scabby and diseased. We left a plate of food for this mother who obviously was still nursing her pups. If you have ever loved a dog, it is a really sad sight.
She ate our offering with a desperation that was heartbreaking.
Our neighbors from 30 years ago(that we found again at the MTC) left a message on our blog a few days ago after seeing these sad pictures of the starving dog. They are serving another mission in Australia now, but previously served in Ghana Africa. They commented, “In Ghana there were no skinny dogs because they had all been eaten by the people.” I stared at that comment for quite a while. Try to comprehend the suffering and hunger that would lead to eating this dog. We cannot begin to imagine.
All the following houses boarder the road leaving Port of Spain, the biggest city in Trinidad.
.A brother in the Chaguanas branch bore his testimony last Sunday. Apparently they are very very poor but he is also very handy so they had the idea to find really dilapidated, run down housing, rent the house for very cheap (no one else would live there) and fix it up. The house had broken walls, exposed pipes, holes in the roof, so he fixed it all and then the Landlord came and kicked them out and rented it to someone else for much more money. The second house had water running down the wall and all over the foundation and the side of the house and busted windows. They rented it, tore up the cement foundation and replaced a broken pipe under the house, redid the floor, replaced the window and then got kicked out so the landlord could rent it for much more….AGAIN… This happened a third time so they pretty much decided to start saving pennies a week to save up to buy a lot and build their own house. Many people live on $100 US a week salary which is why saving is a long long process. They finally had enough to buy a small space. After they owned the lot and were saving for materials for a lean-to basically, the church came to them and told them how important it was for them to go to the temple to be sealed.
After praying about what to do, they decided to sell their lot to be able to travel to the temple. That is what they did trusting the Lord would bless them for putting the kingdom of God first. After they got back, his older brother invited them to come and live with them. They were living there for a few months when his brother died and left his house and everything else to him.
An Elder and Sister serving in Guyana, (a much poorer country than Trinidad) shared a story about the branch president at the Senior Couples Conference. This is the second mission in Guyana this dedicated missionary couple has served. They only have a few weeks left and expressed how much they have loved working with the people and how hard it is to leave them. The following story illustrates the depth of the challenges in Guyana. Try to imagine what the response in North America would be in this situation.
The Branch President hardly knows how to read and stutters badly. Every Sunday he struggles through an old conducting form filled with events of the first week he was called, over two years ago. Those events are in the past, but since he has no comprehension of the meaning of the words the previous branch president helped him recite the first time he conducted as a newly called leader, the people just listen to him recite the same announcements every Sunday. A well-educated single sister in the branch who comes faithfully and always thinks of the needs of others, gave the branch president a tissue paper floral arrangement that he keeps on the stand, even when you cannot see the speaker because of it. She gave it to him a year ago, just when he was feeling particularly unloved and opposed by many of the branch members. ...Her gift came to him when he needed it badly. It will likely stay on the podium as long as he presides……………………
We love these people!