Monday, February 25, 2013

Deja Vu!

First, the culture focus of this week is..... guess that fruit or vegetable!  I must do this periodically because we have some very strange looking things we eat and they taste the same, but look dramatically different!
 Whadya think this is?  You'd probably think these are for the trash at home, huh?
Now can you tell?  Looks grungy, but tastes the fact a tiny bit sweeter.
 This is a primary school we passed.  I wanted my granddaughters to see the little girls playing that smack-hands-while-singing-those-rhyming-songs, game!  (I asked Elder Monson what those things are called...his answer, "I don't know.  I'm a guy! We didn't play those! We were busy kicking and throwing things"
To fully appreciate how we take our lives in our hands every time we drive on these bitsy, skinny roads, where whole bunches of cars just park in the lane you are DRIVING DOWN....Remember in this exercise we are in the car driving on the left hand side.
  The picture is taken through our windshield by Elder Monson while I am in the hot seat driving!  We switch off every day.
 This is the size  of many many streets.  Here we are getting closer and closer to a car that is NOT MOVING, just sitting there in the middle of the road.
 Yeah, we are in a giant van! Look how much space we have in the middle to navigate getting around this parked car!
 Oh, and this is typically coming down the road toward us or something of similar size!
Our Saturday this week was amazing as Kerri was baptized. Remember her story a few posts back? She is the young woman whose story I shared about always knowing God. As a young child she prayed to her "Daddy," even though her stepfather told her he wasn't there and she was talking to no one!
 Our YSA secretary, a young woman who has an amazing story herself, came to the baptism from another town to support Keri.  We met at the church first. A few members from the branch attended, Elder Monson and me, the two missionaries and a few YSA's.  The program was baptism and Holy Ghost talks with a very sweet testimony meeting at the end  Both of these impressive young women bore powerful testimonies.  We then loaded up the giant 15-passenger, white mission transport van to drive to the beach for the baptism.  We were told many more members were needing a ride to the baptism which was why we brought the troup transporter!  It is so huge; it is scary on these roads!  The meeting was beautiful, but forces were at work to try to defeat her baptism!  First of all, we had to start the meeting late because her stepfather barred the door refusing to let her go.  She had to wait until he was busy with something and sneak out!
 There were eight of us in the huge van and we had just started driving the long distance to the beach when we got a call to go back a few blocks.  There was a less active young woman who wanted to join us for the baptism.  Right after we picked her up, yup, you guessed it!  Elder Monson was maneuvering around one of those right-in-the-middle-of-the-road cars and scrapped the side and back of the car.  Soooooooo we were foiled again!
 Little miracles happened along the ways though!  We have heard nightmare stories about how some people in Trinidad behave if they are in an accident.  This was a government vehicle!!!!  Great luck!  It was being driven by a very kind man who knew all about missionaries, was very friendly, and basically was just like, "don't worry about it, accidents happen.  We just have to go report it at the police station and we can be on our way." 
Remember the previous three police station visits!  I had everybody in our car hold up four fingers since we were on our way to police station number four!
 Here's another view of the damage. No one was hurt and we refused to give up!
While all the information was being exchanged, those waiting in the van pointed out this tree right by our location that produces a very good fruit....apparently! 
  It also paints cars pink! Here's the evidence!
Seriously!!  Police station number four and we have been in Trinidad for almost three and a half months!
The miracle at the police station was Elder Monson and I walked in to give the report to the officer and sat down at a desk.  It turned out that the woman we spoke to had taken all the missionary discussions two years before while she was in officers training. Then when she completed her program, the branch had closed in one town and been incorporated into another.  We ended up telling her where the church was, how she could contact the missionaries etc.  Pretty amazing!
Before we found this secluded path that led to a perfect spot for the baptism, we tried another beach that was swarming with bathers. Missionary work still went on, as we visited with locals to find a place we could find some privacy.  The Elders gave pass along cards and a message. 
 Dinah, Kelli and Keri before walking down the path to the beach.
 Sister Ray is the new travel office missionary who joined us for the baptism.
 She has waited for this day for a long long time.   She told me her daughter in Heaven was celebrating, too!
 At the bottom of the path is this little cave with a sandy secluded beach.
Getting down to the water level
 Braving the waves to get to a spot deep enough.

 Arm raised to the square for the awaited ordinance.  Just as she was lowered to the sand a wave came and completely covered her.  It was perfect. 
 Coming back to the path
Elder Dahl and Keri after her baptism
 After the baptism journey which began at 8:00 am, we were really hungry. At 3:00 pm we stopped at Richards for a celebratory, famous bake-n-shark.  This one was even better than the first as we added some local magic - shadow benny ( a savory herb grown here then pureed) and another local sauce on top!  Wow!
 Here's a papa who misses his grand babies!  On Sunday during Sacrament meeting he got to help an investigator with her baby while her older child needed some attention.
 A little picture of heaven!
 This is an inside joke for my children!  We finally found it....after searching your whole lives......Da bomb!!!!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Success/ and life happens!

It was inevitable that we would run into the dark side of Trinidad sometime!  It happened this weekend on the heels of a great success!
  Let's start with a picture of a mom walking her baby to school..... across a freeway, basically!  Luckily, there are stoplights occasionally, but speeds quickly build to 100+ kilometers on this street!
 I meant to add the DELICIOUS milk counter at Pricemart to my food post!  The milk at home is missed more than about any other creature comfort!  This carton-on-the-shelf milk still tastes like canned milk to us.  Yummy!
 Although we are dead with exhaustion at the end of this week, we are thrilled with the outcome!  Our first stake YSA activity went great.......with the exception of Satan trying to defeat us at the end!   The youth gathered at the trailhead of the waterfall hike to check in.
 As they milled around, liming with people they already knew, we separated them right down the middle into two large groups; took all the names from one group and passed them out to the other.   The individuals given the name had to go find that person and ask them three questions: #1) What is one thing that nobody else here knows about you? #2) What are two things in your bucket list? #3) If you could have dinner with anyone in the whole history of the world, who would it be and why?  After they had completed the questions, we collected the other group's names, mixed them up and passed them out to the first group and the exercise was repeated with yet another person. The entire group was then invited to introduce their new friends to everyone and prove how well they listened by repeating everything about the person they interviewed. They loved it!  Most everyone there wanted to present their new friend to the group.

The next activity was a group sculpture made out of recyclables.  It was to be an animal from which we could learn something.  The introduction was that God created everything spiritually before it was created physically. Man, and woman, alone, have agency to choose either joy and eternal life or misery in following Satan.  We talked about the great migration in Africa of Wildebeests and Zebras and how they fulfill the measure of their creation.  They were to jointly select an animal, what could be learned from it, and after creating it from duct tape, newspaper and plastic bottles, present it to the group.  This was a great activity!  Everyone was very engaged and they came up with inspiring applications to present to everyone at the end. Here's the bird and nest being created.
 The elephant ear is being attached here.
 Nicholas is holding up the trunk!
 Can't you just see the whale beginning to take shape?  There were several investigators and less-actives there which was awesome!
 The dog team is hard at work!
 A little better perspective of the groups working on their projects.
 This was the presentation and application of the dog!  While they were presenting and talking about characteristics of man's best friend that we can emulate, a real dog came up sniffing their creation which broke up the spiritual application with peals of laughter and clicking cameras for facebook shots! I was too slow opening my ipad for the picture.  You'll just have to use your imagination!
 We then heard all about Orca whales and their commitment to family; a characteristic rare in West Indies families.
 The whale and the dog became fast friends while everyone took pictures.
 The dog is being introduced to the bird and the nest.
 The whale is meeting the bird! After the presentations,we talked about our journey in life and its application to the journey we were about to take to hike to the waterfall.
We left the trusty animal creations to guard our car at the trailhead.  Everyone loaded the stuff into it they didn't want to take on the hike, and we headed off.
 When we reached the top, several of us found a good place to watch those who immediately went into the water under the falls and in the shallow pools beneath it.  We had a picnic at the top.

When we first arrived, people just enjoyed the beauty and mist blowing off the mountain.
Doesn't this picture of Raymond remind you of that huge statue in Brazil?
Wandering down the creek bed.
Celebrating the cool!  I know, this is hard for people to relate to in the United States in February!
The spot that was referred to as the "swimming pond!"

Elder Monson decided he would brave the slippery rocks and stand under the waterfall.
He grew two extra arms out of his head!
After lunch, we played the Electric Pulse game.  We had a long serpentine line.  At one end was a stool with a ball on it and at the other was President Danzell who flipped a coin.  When it was heads, the first two people squeezed the hands of the person next to them and passed it down the line to the end person who grabbed the ball to win one point.  If someone started the squeeze and picked up the ball when it was tails, the other team got the point.  The application was:  If you hear good news, pass it on!  Tell another YSA that didn't come that they missed out and should come next month!
The sad thing was we had a wonderful two hours at the waterfall and returned to this.  Our car window on the front passenger side had been smashed, the car broken into and money, phones and food (three boxes of granola bars and a cake stolen)  It put a big damper on our party.  We called the police, and surprisingly, they came and took a report.
Another picture of the absent window. 
They were not very healthy thieves because they left the apples.
The whale didn't do such a great job protecting the car!
You can see the glass on the ground where they dropped it.
Undeterred, we handed out the group scripture chase. Each group had a scripture on unity printed on poster board and then cut into separate words that they raced to assemble first. 
We had a couple of spies that would wait until one group figured out a sentence and then come over and try to see it! So they had to choose guards to protect their boundaries. 
It was a difficult scripture to assemble.  We did not give them the reference, so no one could look it up. They had to figure it out only by the words. 
Mosiah 18:21  Four "ones."  Three, "ands." Yeah, it was a challenge and really competitive. 
  Unfortunately, the break-in put a big damper on the ending.  The girl that lost the most money, except me and Elder Monson,  was not a member and there with her boyfriend who had not been to church for 12 years.  I think they both had a good experience, but we were really sad that it happened to her. 
Then began the comedy of errors that seriously should be made into a movie!  While the police were there, they told us that we needed to go to the nearest police station to get the report that I had to have to be able to drive.  The "official form" stated that the break-in occurred, what was stolen, etc.  At this point we were exhausted and just beginning a police experience that lasted for FIVE HOURS!!!  These are our two dear friends, Dinah and Keri, who insisted on coming with us to find the police station because they are locals and could save us tons of time.  We were very appreciative. We had taken two cars to the activity in order to haul up all the suff we needed for the activities, so I was driving the busted-in car with the girls and Elder Monson had the "troup transporter" van following behind to make sure we weren't shot through the busted-out window. 
We were told at the police station that we needed to go to another police station in Tunapuna, an adjoining town, to have fingerprints taken.  I explained that we were concerned to drive the car with glass sticking out all over the frame, so we had all touched the door in multiple places cleaning out the glass before driving.  "No concern at all."  So we drove to the next police station.  The fingerprint expert came and had what looked like a big makeup brush and spread it all over the car to find the prints.  He looked at my fingers, had me put my thumb print on the frame.  Don't believe the smile!  I was so incredulous, that the only reaction was to smile.... (Seriously, can you believe how bad the mission hair is???)  If I dyed it orange, it would look exactly like clown hair!
Here's the close-up of the fingerprints.  He asked me to write my initials with a pen on a couple random prints for "comparison purposes."  He then told us we needed to go to another town, Arima, and there the police would take photographs of the prints.  Wondering if all the dust stuff would just blow away on the drive, Keri asked if that was a good idea.  He assured her he would cover it up with some scratch paper and masking tape!!!
Police station number two in Tunapuna where the fingerprints were dusted, initialed, covered and taped!
This was the town square clock near Police Station number three, Arima.  The police photographer came out with a "professional camera" that seriously looked like it was in some keystone-cops retro movie!  You know, the kind that has an accordion type fabric that you pull forward, press right against the fingerprint and actually pull down the level on the side! 
Our third police station for the night! Don't you think this looks like a Lego replica of a police station?
I was trying to take a picture of the camera....this gives you an idea how late the entire ordeal went.  We left our apartment at 7:00 am and got home at 10:30 pm
Despite the frustrations of the evening, the Sabbath was the next day!  A perfect reminder that no matter what the world throws at them, they will sup at the table of the Lord, renew sacred covenants and be inspired as a beautiful baby boy is blessed by his worthy father. The kingdom of God is growing stronger in Trinidad, in opposition to the evident evils of the world around them

  "No unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, .......(robbers may break into cars during youth activities)....... but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the great Jehovah shall say the work is done" ! Joseph Smith..... plus Sister Monson