Monday, March 25, 2013

Not your first destination vacation choice!

For p-day this week, we went to another of the 4 tourist attractions in Trinidad with some of the office senior missionaries. I have already reported on two of them.  It was nice, but I'm just saying if you get to pick a Caribbean island to visit on vacation, this might not be the one!  Perfect mission to request, though!
 We passed this home on the way to the Asa Wright nature center.  It was unusual in that it had no roof.  Clearly people are living in it.  Laundry was hanging on the line, and you can see the mother and child by the right side of the house. 
 Peruse the three-lane-highway we traveled to get there.  I admit to praying along the way a few times.  We are so freaked out by the frequency of accidents; yesterday we passed a vehicle that flipped, went off the road and burned. We didn't get a phone call, so no missionaries involved.  There really are no rules on the road at all, at least that anybody pays any attention to!
 We passed an intricate system of gardening for a certain vegetable that is widely eaten here.  It was across the whole side of the mountain.  You can see here underneath the intricate wire lattice system that supports the vines.  The vegetable kind of looks like elongated avocados.  There is one here in the shade part in the middle of the photo, but it is hard to see.
 Look closely at the top of the wire structure that holds them above the ground for easy picking underneath the vines.
 We finally arrived at the Asa Wright nature center.  I loved this saying, and thought we need one up at the cabin. Asa Wright was from Iceland and very wealthy.  She visited Trinidad, loved the rain forest and purchased acres to keep safe from land development and human encroachment.  One can stay there overnight; it's touted as a bird refuge.  We enjoyed it and met people from all over the world that came to stay for days to watch birds.  We didn't see many on our guided tour, but talked to a lady from CA who said there are many other walks with unusual birds including to a cave that has very rare oil birds and other unique species, if you are a birder! 
 Here's a picture of her, thanks to google!  She lived there until her death in 1971.
 These are leaves, not flowers!
 All these colorful hummingbirds played outside the deck where we awaited our tour guide.
 Here's Elder Monson in front of a wild nutmeg tree!
 These rattan vines are found throughout the rain forest and made into furniture.  Incredibly strong, and the guide explained that the different colors of rattan wood are created from the length of time they are buried under the ground.  Less time equals a lighter color and left up to a month, a dark walnut color is the result.  They grow to huge lengths, up to 100 feet. 
 Elder Monson holding onto a bamboo cluster.  It actually grows 6- 9 inches per day!!  Someone on the tour said that bamboo has been used to torture prisoners by attaching it to their skin and letting it grow through the body! 
 A beautiful and unusual flower.
 This is a termite colony.  We saw huge ones in Caroni Swamp. (remember the birds?)  The guide  said they are loaded with beta carotene and have kept people alive by eating them.  He also let a man on the tour stick his finger inside and taste it!  He asked him what it tasted and smelled like.  The guy said, "carrots!"  Weird, huh?  Elder Monson hung back to sneak a bite for the road.  I caught him just in time!
 This beautiful archway is in front of the gift shop and registration building. 
 Here are two friends for my grandchildren to see!  #1
 #2! I'm glad we didn't come upon him unawares!  We didn't see as many birds as we had hoped, but there were some serious insects!
 A place to go for a dip at the end of the tour, if you want! We did see a huge iguana that sped away twice before we could take his picture.  Too bad.  However, we decided against a dipping after noting the plentiful insect population around. We headed out and were thrilled to arrive home without accident.
 There are tons of these stands everywhere!!  We are just dying to try pig tail, ox tail and cow heel soup!  Aren't you?
 Filling up at the gas station, we noticed this bizarre sign.  A sister explained that naked lights are front and back car lights that have busted covers, just bare bulbs that might ignite a fire when you fill up!
 The  no rules thing.....yeah, it goes for vehicle emission testing, too.  There are no regulations so all of this comes from one truck  driving down the freeway. We ride behind cars and the smoke engulfing us is blinding!
 This is, of course, the left side of our vehicle.  My relaxed posture is in stark contrast to the incredulity at my right as Elder Monson continues to repeat, "Can you believe that?; Did you see that?; That guy is really cutting in front of everybody and doing such and such!"  I've become accustomed to Trinidad! Nothing surprises me.....until tomorrow and it's my turn to take our lives into my hands!
On our way to church, yesterday, we passed this church group following after a huge sound system playing music while they walked, danced and chanted along the street for Palm Sunday!  We went to a very remote branch which took us three hours round trip and found there 8 adults and one lone 12 year old boy.  This young man never has his own Sunday School class.  We asked him after Sacrament meeting if he would like us to teach him in his own class.  He was thrilled.  We asked him if he had any questions.  He asked, "Who is Jesus's father and who is God's father."  Those were great questions which led to a very sweet lesson.  At the end of it, Elder Monson asked Shawn if he would like to say the closing prayer.  His prayer was one of those times we are so thankful we have this opportunity to serve a mission.  He said, "Heavenly Father, thank you that Elder and Sister Monson could come and teach me Sunday School today.  Thank you that I could learn new things about Jesus and thank you especially that I came today to have this experience."
This young man told us his mother was in the hospital because she drinks rum all the time.  His sister is in jail and is a drug addict.  He comes to church with his grandmother and is the only one in the family that comes.  At the end, we asked him if he had any more questions.  His response was, "How can I keep this feeling of peace when everyone around me is screaming and swearing and being mean?"  We helped him memorize a scripture: "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."
Have a great Passion Week celebration as you prepare to remember the most significant event of all eternity!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cars and Baptism

We had another great YSA activity and ocean baptism but before we get to that, I have to talk a little about our consuming pass-time currently.....vehicles!!
 You might remember how many accidents there have been in the mission since we have been given this temporary assignment.  We are getting jumpy!  Every time the phone rings, we panic wondering which missionaries are calling about what new accident!!  Currently we are dealing with this car, which a  talented Elder (the one who narrowly escaped going through the windshield of a Maxi in a bike/car accident) luckily knew how to figure out that the ignition starter fuse had blown!  He was sooo helpful! I still say my kids should have taken car mechanics in high school!  
 On Saturday there was another accident. It was raining and an Elder driving with four missionaries in the car hit a porsche SUV head-on coming around a sharp turn on one of the crazy narrow and dangerous roads.  Luckily, no one was seriously injured.  That was a miracle too, since both cars are most likely totaled. This was the missionary car.
The other guy's car. He was swearing,screaming hysterical while the missionary just bawled saying, "I'm sorry," over and over.   He will most certainly lose his driving privileges for the rest of his mission since it was his fault. Too bad!
Wow! Here's a caterpillar to remember! See those feelers across the top of the body  They were amazing to watch going every which way!  I've never seen anything like it!  Imagine the butterfly from this thing??
 Green is a very popular color for trucks in Trinidad!
 This is such a familiar sight.  There are a whole bunch of random car parts places, doors hanging on hooks out on the streets etc.  People just get extra parts and put them on their cars and so have whole bunches of colors from different parts of other cars!  Resourceful, huh?
 Now, I think those wheels are very creative!  They certainly catch the eye!

 This is a maxi.  It is how all the people travel around here.  It's a bus and they come in all sizes and you better not find yourself on the priority bus routes accidentally, or you are in BIG trouble,  although we have yet to see that scary rule or any other enforced!
 Elder Monson insisted I include this Jeffrey Dahmer franchise business advertisement! We haven't found the sister organization for girl used parts, yet.
 Another variation on the green truck theme
This is so frequent I wanted to remember it.  Driving down the narrow roads there is just a tiny space to maneuver and if you are wrong, there is a three foot drop you can fall into!  Makes for some white knuckle driving.
The view coming into the beach area where we held our YSA activity and Crystal's baptism.  It looks like a scene from a movie!
Crystal, her family and the Elders
The baptism
The all important sign-in table that we take to every activity.  It allows us to see how we have grown our numbers and the locations from which we get the best support. 
The ice-breaker activity to mix up and get to know.
Making new young single adult friends
This activity was awesome! Crossing the river.  They had to all cross as a group and no one could get off the river until they were all on it.  They could only stand on the "rafts" or the whole group had to start over. 
Working together to get every person across safely
They had to start over because people who got to the other end were so excited they jumped off prematurely. If there was a raft not stepped on, even for a second, it would get washed down the river...grabbed by us, which made their task harder!
The next activity was the great egg drop!  They worked together to create an egg protection system.  Then Elder Monson dropped them off a cliff, threw them at a ladder, etc. to see which egg survived!
Working together while discussing the application that we all need the armor of God to survive the obstacles of this life.
This one had a parachute attached to the egg container.
They all brought lunches, and we were there all day!  Elder Monson's face was absolutely fried!  He used to be a red-head.  Sun days prove it!
Great memories and another week in paradise!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Beautiful flora and unrecognizable eats of Trinidad

Several of you live in places in the world that haven't even shown a hint of spring approaching!  This post is for you!  After the darkness, there IS light!  I had to share some of these  beautiful flowers of Trinidad that we enjoy all year! Flowers will return for you, too, in the near future!
 Isn't this sunset gorgeous!
 These are just random flowers in trees and bushes along the roads.
 We drove down a few streets and took pictures all along the way.....
 It helps to have a rain forest climate.

Looks like a bridal bouquet
 Some of them grow in front of shacks......
 Some in front of mansions
 I thought the variety would cheer you up, if there is still snow outside at your house!
 Some remind me of Butchart gardens!
 If I had lots of time, I'd look them all up and tell you the names.......alas......
 Instead, it is a feast for your eyes to remind you of what is coming........

 Don't try to grow these in Saint George!!
 Or Chicago, Salt Lake or California.  Well, maybe California.
 My daughter Rachel wrote this story in an email.  I had to record it to preserve this interaction between cousins.  She was taking care of our son Jordan’s children for a few days so her children Carter(5) and Beckett(3) were playing with their cousin, Skyler(4) at our home when this happened.  “A picture of Sister Monson and Beckett flashed up on our screen saver this morning and Skyler, Carter, and Beckett were all talking about it and then Skyler said, "I miss Nana!  She's too far away!  Then Carter said, yeah she's on a mission for a long long time and Skyler said, " "yeah, you just have to talk to her on the dumb computer!":)  So Rachel said, "Yes that's really sad that we can't give her hugs and play with her in person but she is being a missionary for Jesus so that's happy!!!" 
 The sun piercing through is a pretty touch, don'tcha think?
 The last of the beautiful flowers of Trinidad.  On to the really-strange-looking vegetables!
 We stopped at one of the myriad of fresh produce stands and took these pictures.  No, these are not strange peas!
 I asked her the names of all these things and now, days later,  I can't remember any of them.  Well, a few.  These are not beans!  We thought they were initially; cut them up and made them look like fresh beans, cooked and seasoned them like fresh beans.  Yeah, they are NOT fresh beans.
 The next four root vegetables are all bizarre imitations of various food stuffs we have in the United States.  These, we initially decided at Thanksgiving, were yams.  They are light yellow inside, and cooked sort of like yams, except I had to cook them THREE times as long and with twice as much sauce!  They turned out ok....vaguely reminiscent of the traditional recipe.
Yup!  This is the real deal!  This hunk of bark is, in reality, a yam!  Seriously!
 We have become really good friends with a local farmer, Grant. He always gives us fresh vegetables and we have had some amazing discussions. He recently accepted book of Mormon, promised to read it, and has helped us collect things for YSA activities.  He is such a great man.  Anyway, he has two lots where he grows local vegetables such as these. We have learned a ton about his business.  He explained that all the vegetables people eat here in Trinidad look really marginal on the outside because the best looking are the only ones people will buy.  So the local people eat all the natural, ugly ones.  He said most of the perfect fruits and vegetables that we have in the US are grown in hot houses and controlled environments instead of natural growers where they really don't look that perfect. He has shared many of his vegetables with us and though they aren't perfect looking, they taste delicious; tomatoes, cucumbers, bok choy, green peppers.  We walk right past his lots on our 6:30 am walks and frequently stop to talk with him.  What a worker!  He is our age, but looks 20 years younger.  They all do!  Black skin just ages better!  We met and talked recently with a woman that had truly beautiful skin.  We thought she was about 35. She actually showed us her drivers license because we could not believe that she was 60!!!!
 Another root something....mashed up, maybe??
Plantains!  You know these. I like regular bananas better! Elder Monson's description: "They don't have the flavor of bananas and they taste like wood pulp!"  Hmmmm.  I wonder when he tasted wood pulp??
So what is going on with this picture you might be asking?  Elder Monson is now the car czar!! This new, additional-and-temporary assignment means we get bikes stacked all over the apartment and three cars we are temporarily responsible for stored out in front, and non- stop calls about accidents, and reports to file over and over, and those of you who know Elder Monson well know of his long and illustrious career as a car mechanic!!!  He is, of course, doing a great job and hoping against hope that this really is a temporary assignment!  Since he has had this assignment, there have been two car accidents, two bikes stolen, and a third bike-car accident that almost killed an elder.  (He's fine, and it was a miracle!) This was despite the fact that the first thing Elder Monson did as car czar, after his accident, was to send out an email informing all the missionaries that accidents were not allowed!  Have a great week!