Monday, June 30, 2008

First Week

Vicki's putting the pictures together, so I'm going to write a little about what's been going on the last two weeks.

We arrived in Bogotá late June 13th. We had a little trouble getting through immigration at the airport, until they found our visas in our passports. We didn't have any problems with customs—we got a green light, so no inspection.

We were met at the airport by two people from my office. They took us to the temple patron housing, where they had stocked our apartment with food and made sure we had everything we needed. We were across the parking lot from the temple, so we took advantage of that.

The next day (Saturday) we met my boss and some of the members of the church. We took a walk to a mall about ½ mile from the temple. The traffic is intense and taxi rides are white knuckle experiences, but the drivers seem to get through them okay.

It took us about a week to find a permanent apartment. We're about 30 blocks from work, so we get a good hike in when we walk. Usually we take a taxi, because it isn't safe to carry our computers that far. Eventually we'll get our computers at work, then we won't have to haul ours back and forth. Once that happens we'll walk almost every day. When we get back to the US we should be in good shape.

This is a long weekend. Monday is a holiday. I asked one of the folks at work what the holiday was all about. He said no one knows (I think it's San Pedro's day). They just have lots of holidays. We expect to spend some time with my mentor/trainer doing some sightseeing on Monday.

We'll be going to Mexico City in July, as well as to a couple of other cities in Colombia (including Cartagena). In August we'll go to Ecuador for about 10 days to put on some training.

We're inviting ourselves to various areas to provide training for the stake and ward auditors. There is a high turn over, so we need to repeat that training often.

When we go out to train the auditors, the mission presidents try to see Vicki. All of them have some missionaries who need some help, and they see Vicki as a life boat. We spent four hours today with a mission president and his wife discussing some of the problems they're having. They obviously care a lot about their missionaries, and want to help them find their way in life.

We're having fun with the language. Vicki understands a lot of what she hears, and confirms the rest with me (a reversal of our usual roles). Most of the folks we work with understand a lot of English, but are limited in their ability to speak. Today's visit with Pres. & Sis. Martinez was typical. Vicki spoke to them in English, and they spoke to her in Spanish. I was able to fill in the gaps when they didn't understand, but that wasn't all that often.

We have found several stores where we like to shop. A couple of days ago we went to a place called Carrefour. It's a French owned chain like Walmart, only the store is much bigger, and the aisles aren't crowded with merchandise. It was a comfortable place to shop. After we got what we wanted to there, we went across the street to a fruit and vegetable store. It was amazing how much fruit we were able to find. We're trying new things every day. We eat a lot differently than we're used to. Our new diet is probably pretty healthy.

There's too much going on to tell all of it. We're always amazed as we watch horse drawn carts, buses, bicycles, motorcycles, cars and even an occasional truck on the crowded streets. What would be two lanes in the US becomes four lanes here. About every third car is a taxi, but we have to be careful not to hail them down when we want a ride. We call a taxi service and request a ride. They give a license plate number (which is also printed on the side of the vehicle) and a security code. When the taxi arrives, we have to give the driver the code so he can call it in.

The motorcycle laws are interesting. All the riders have to wear helmets and vests with the license plate numbers in huge letters. We never see a motorcyclist without a helmet. We've seen a lot of near accidents, but never one that actually occurred. We hardly ever see a car with a dent. Crowding in with a car seems to be an accepted way of life. We sometimes see traffic cops, but we never see them pull anyone over. If there are rules of the road, we don't know what they are. I guess the main rule is that whoever is biggest has the right of way, or whoever honks first gets to go through the intersection first.

Private security is everywhere, which is both comforting and disconcerting at the same time. We're glad to have the security, but we wish it wasn't necessary. There are police on every block, and at night they carry sub-machine guns. We have to go through security to get into our building at work, and our computer serial numbers are checked when we enter and when we leave. When we leave our apartment, the security guard at the door lets us out, and lets us back in when we return. It's kind of nice to know that strangers can't just walk into our building.

There is much to tell, but not enough time to tell it right now. We'll add more on our next blog update. We're having new and different experiences every day, and enjoying every bit of it. Wish we could have done this years ago!

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