Saturday, June 14, 2008

Catch up

Ok here we go. It has been a couple of weeks since I have been able to update this blog and a lot has happened. First of all we are finally in Bogota. We got here last night late. We were on visa hold for a while We are temporarily in housing on the grounds of the Bogota, Temple.

If you go to google and then to maps for Bogota Colombia and look at the satellite photo you can almost see us. Just put in Mormon Temple Bogota Colombia in the search box and 5 locations will come up. It is the one that is furtherist north. I don’t know what the others are. We are in the wing of the L shaped building that is closest to the Temple. Zoom in to one hash mark from the top.

This Temple is Huge. It is as long as the Salt Lake Temple and just a little bit smaller in width and just as tall. I will talk more about our adventures here so far later , (we have walked to the Mall and gone into the neighborhoods around the Temple looking for the Chapel where we will go to church tomorrow.) But first I want to talk some more about our experience in the MTC.

The MTC is an amazing place. The young missionaries are given assignments to go stop a senior couple and teach them a short principle or share their testimony in their new language. They catch us while we are between classes or in the laundry or going to meals. The senior couples are given basically the same assignment except it is to stop young missionaries and teach and/or speak to them in the language we are learning.

As a result all over the MTC grounds you see little groups of usually 4 (two elders or sisters talking to a senior couple) And you know what is going on. This gets done a lot during the first 2 weeks a new missionary is in language training. We have had several sets come up to us. Some from the US going Spanish speaking, some from Korea going English speaking. One group was from Canada and Australia going German Speaking. In addition we have seen lots of other people practicing their languages. We have several pictures in the slide show below of Elders and Sisters who have practiced their language skills with us.

The two elders in the Fiji shirts are going to Fiji but the short one, is one of three missionaries in training from a small Island just off of the Marshal Islands. He has his own native language and is here learning both English (which he had never had the opportunity to speak or hear before) and Fijian(also new to him.) There are no native speakers of his language at the MTC (which is unusual). He is one of several elders and sisters that are coming in from the Islands.

One of the problems these Elders and Sisters face is that they have never worn shoes. Even the Samoan and Tongon Elders have problems in shoes but these three from this particular Island are really having trouble. We talked to their branch president and he indicated that they are all currently in flip flops because their feet are so sore and blistered, even on the tops of the toes. He says he has had to have the medical staff attend to a couple of them because they are so excited to be here that they don’t want to complain. Their toes are all spread out instead of being bunched together like someone who wears shoes. It is hard for them to walk in regular shoes. A moccasin like shoe has been created for them and they will transition to that after they get the sores healed.

Foot issues were one of the things we got training on in the medical department. It underscores some of the problems that we deal with. Some Elders have been raised going to the Doctor about every little problem and complain about everything. They have very little tolerance for the discomfort that mission life can bring. When they struggle with the language and are sleeping and eating in sometimes less than adequate situations they get discouraged and a few have a hard time adjusting. Most of them usually make the adjustment expecially when they get into the field and can see the conditions that many people in the world live in. They develop a sense of gratitude and go to work to help make things better.

Some, however, think that God doesn’t love them if they have to experience some difficult times. Others are genuinely ill either physically or they have a major mental health challenge that can not be helped in the field. That’s where I come in. Part of my job is helping those that want to stay in the field have the help they need in the field if it is feasible. Some of these are the best ,most hard working elders. They are not slackers but the extreme stress of the mission makes the issues they struggle with worse or brings them out in the first place. If they reach a point where they can not function (and we have some guide lines for that) than we have to bring them home for treatment. There is a difference between the Elder who is suffering from the “Traditions of His Fathers” ie a life of plenty and no real discomforts in life and the one who goes over the edge into a serious mental health challenge that needs better treatment and less stress than we can offer in the field. Elders and Sisters have to be able to do the work. If they can’t than we work with them to come to some kind of an agreement that they need treatment at home.

It is always hard to send an Elder or Sister Home but sometimes it has to be done. The other part of this delimma is that we have Elders like the Island Elders and Sisters I have talked about have come from such humble circumstances that they will ignore even the worst pain in order to continue to serve. We have to be careful at both ends of the “Traditions of their Fathers” spectrum. I can tell you that we have fewer Elders from poverty areas of the globe experiencing depression and anxiety. They experience psychosis at about the same rate .

Below are the pictures I have taken so far in Colombia. My Spanish is inadequate and improving rapidly. I even bought soap (jabon) at a small neighborhood Drug store kind of on my own, ie I sort of did the talking (a lot of hand guesturing and a few words). I also bought a few things like flour and sugar at a major grocery store. (You have to go through security to park in the lot and you have to pay to get out. ) It was a as crowded and noisy as it is on a Saturday afternoon at any store in the US and they have anything and everything you could think of including US products (which cost an arm and a leg). I can’t give you any price comparisons yet. I don’t know the exchange rate well enough to figure it out.

We walked along the bike route to a big mall (see slide show below)and looked around but the grocery store is not in the Mall. Br Barlow, who Darwin will be working with (He is the comptroller for the SA North Area), took us. He is leaving Tuesday for a months vacation in the US so we don’t know who will be English Speaking down here to get us oriented. We will be shopping on Monday and Tues for an apartment. That could be interesting.

The Car situation here is interesting. Taxi’s and buses are everywhere and are cheap. There are private cars but they are given certain days when they can be on the road and other days when they can’t be. It is by licenses plate number. Br. Barlow said that right now he cannot dirve his car on Tues and Friday. That will switch to Monday and Thursday in August. On Sunday they totally shut down most major roads into the central city and make them bike and pedestrian only.

We are very much on our own until Monday when we will go into the office for the first time. They did give dad a cell phone right away so we have contact numbers. But anybody’s best bet to get us is by email. As I said we are in Patron Housing on the Temple grounds. The Temple has security personnel on duty around the clock. They have been very helpful. Everybody down here is just great. The Temple president lives in this complex but mostly these apartments are for the Temple patrons that come in from areas away from the city. There were lots of families here today(Saturday). Enough for now. More next week. Check out the pictures of the water system in the slide show
PS Note. While at the Grocery store I bought noodles and some canned tuna and some soup to make tuna noodle casserole. We are not going to be here in this apartment long so I wanted stuff that was simple and quick. This apartment is furnished and has utensils but after I had finished cooking the noodles I discovered that we didn’t have a can opener. Talk about “Traditions of the Fathers”. I just assumed that a stocked kitchen would have a can opener but they don’t use that many canned foods down here; those of us who don’t cook well with all natural ingredients have expectations by tradition that just don't hold up here.


Emily Norton said...

I'm glad to know you finally made it! I love all of the information and the videos. You are making the most of the blog which is wonderful for the rest of us. Oh, to be a missionary in the 21st century! :)

Molly said...

I am new at this thing,so here goes...I feel very blessed to not only live in the United States, but as a member of His church, a Latter-Day Saint, I hope I can continue to bless the lives of the boys in my care as a mother and give them plenty of growing pain experiences, so they are thankful for their lives when they get on a mission and can weather the storms of mission life and truly enjoy the joy of the "rainbows"!!!
The boys send their love!!!

Marcia said...

Congratulations! You finally made it to another chapter in your life together. Your blog is great and keep it up. Good luck apartment hunting!