Sunday, July 27, 2008

Cartagena

We did our first full training for auditors in Cartegena. Miguel Angel was with us and did the training while we watched. Next week in Duitama Darwin does the training and Miguel watches. The systems for handling church funds are a little different in this area than they are in the US because they have a cash economy. People do not use checks. They pay their donations in cash and when there is an activity that requires supplies they do not have enough liquid funds in individual families to buy the supplies and then get reimbursed after they turn in a reciept. They need to get the cash up front and then go get the items needed and then bring in the reciept (this is also hard because reciepts are not routinely given) and return any of the unused advance. As a result there are different accounting procedures in place and the twice yearly audit looks for some different things. Boring as it sounds Darwins job is to make sure that generally accepted accounting procedures are used and followed and that the auditors are trained in exactly how things should work so that any variation in procedures that could result (or has resulted) in the misuse of the scared funds of the church can be found and fixed. That is a harder task than you think when you realize that the church is relatively new in these countries. There are many very young leaders. We are working with stake presidents under 30 and stake finance clerks who are barly off their missions (or who haven't gone yet). Or ward clerks who have only been members for 6 months. Turn over is high. A person may servce as a clerk for a year and then be called into a bishopric for 2 years and end up as a bishop for 3 years and then be called as a stake president. (not an unusualy occurance). It is hard to get seasoned priesthood leaders. You just get one bunch trained and they turn over. Also the church is growing so fast that young congregations have a hard time having the kind of experienced leadership they need to learn the administrative procedures that they need to function in thier positions. (yes this is plea for more senior missionaries. You would be suprised at how much you could contribute just by being available with the wealth of experience that you have. -- How does the primary work? How do you organize a Relief Society enrichment night. How do you teach a lesson. How do you handle the funds of the church. How do you conduct a meeting. How do you lead the signing. Different places need different things and their are some wonderful skilled leaders but the depth of leadership and the subtleties of administrative function are in need of help. All the emerging areas of the church are in the same boat. Africa, Turky, Mongolia, South East Asia, Russia and others. If you are approaching retirement and want a great experience using your experience in new and different ways, call the senior missionary department and asked what you can do.
Below are some of the pictures I took in Cartagena.





Coming in from the airport along the beach

Down the block from our hotel
Old Historic Cartagena. Cartagena is definately a tourist town. However, it is also a the major exporting port for Colombia so there are huge shipyards. Cartagena away from the tourist area is like any Colombian town. Street venders and small shops everywhere and incredably happy people. It is hot (really hot) in Caragena. The taxi's are all airconditioned which I really appreciated. However, I was glad to get back to the perpetual spring like weather of Bogota.


The beaches
Typical Market from the back streets of Cartagena while we were looking for the chapel

Flowers at the hotel
A Food court in an area away from the beach Saturday night after the training.


Nicer neighborhood in Cartagena

Bicycle Taxies in just like in Bogota


One of the Chapels in Cartagena. There are two stakes in Cartagena. I don't know how many wards. We visited two chapels but there are more.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Training in Mexico City

Dad and I in Central Mexico City. Mexico City is built on the ruins of another city, and that city was built on a lake. All of Mexico City sits on kind of a bed of jello. The City is sinking at the rate of 3 inches a year and the trees around town are being used as foundations. The roots are ringed with steel. The white pillers on each conor of the monument in the picture above used to sit at street level. Now the street is way below them. The population of Mexico City is 29 million. It is one of the 3 largest cities in the world. I think Toyko is larger and Sao Paulo Brazil trades back and forth with Mexico City for 2nd and 3rd. Dad and I have now been in both Sao Paulo and Mexico City. I didn't ride the city buses here in Mexico City like we did in Sao Paulo. We were really pretty sheltered. They didn't want to loose us so they kept us on a pretty short leash. Luckly our Hotel was within walking distance of Mexico City's largest park. Although we didn't get to the zoo in the park, we did get to look around and had a great time the morning we were leaving. Below are Dad and Miguel Angel by the same monument with one of Mexico City's many, many, many large modern skyscrapers in the background. This was part of the massive lobby of our hotel

The minstrals guarding the stairway The picture below was taken out of our bed room window and shows part of the hotel fitness center. The pool is right under that structure of glass. You can see my fingers taking the picture in the reflection
The picture of the swimming pool below only shows about 1/2 of the pool. It was a full 25 yards long. We didn't swim here though. We might when we go to Cartegena this weekend. Next week after Cartegena we may end up in Bolivia. I have been working with a Sister here who may need to be accompanied home. We will see. The Church Auditing Department brought together in Mexico City all the Auditor Trainers for the Areas of the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, South America North and South America West. They are trying to simplify and increase the function of the Audit forms and wanted some input from those who are working with them and training people to use them. The training was in Spanish, with a very few comments in English when I needed to get a point across. I can usually follow the conversation enough to know what they are talking about. I just don't know what they are saying about it. Luckly, Dad and Miguel were there to translate for me. Actually Dad did a good job of translating for Miguel and for me so that we could understand each other. We didn't get a seperate picture of the couple on the left side. They are from Mexico. They are like Miguel Angel and Nancy in Colombia. They have an extra church calling as Area Auditor Trainer part time Missionaries. Miguel is also on the High Council and Nancy is the Stake Relief Society president and Miguel works full time for an insurance company. I don't know what else the couple from Mexico does but it absolutely amazes me the amount of time that they and others like them put in. We could use 10 senior missionary couples for every one that is serving. The three other couples are all missionary couples serving in various areas. And the other people are either church employees supervising audits and accounting or single men serving in home area auditor trainer positions.

This couple is doing the same thing we are in the Caribbean. There are 4 languages spoken in their area. His spanish is quite good and they have some assistants that help in the other language areas. The tall guy on the left end of the group picture serves in their area. He speaks all 4 languages, French, Hatian, Spanish and English.








The couple below works in Central America. They are in Guatamala City right now. They have been out for 18 months of their 23 and both are speaking spanish enough to teach the auditors in their own language and to make themselves understood in a Spanish speaking country. She is really a dynamo and is not afraid to say anything even if she comes accross a little like a grenga. They spent 2 years in the peace corp in Ecuador, and She taught English in Japan. They rode bicycles back and forth to work in Japan. Her native language is German. She immigrated to the US in th 1950's just as she was entering high school. She does not speak Japanese. The Japanese prefer that those that come to teach English, teach totally in English. Neither their assignment in Ecuador with the peace corp or the English Teaching she did in Japan were Church related. They are planning to go out again on another Church mission after they have been home for a few months.






Enjoying the sites in Mexico City. After two days of training we had a morning to go explore. Our plane didn't leave until 4:15 so we took some sight seeing time.



Saturday, July 12, 2008

This evening we went over the the chapel by the temple for a festival in Migel Angel and Nancy's ward. It was wonderful. They had a dance celelebrating the Atlantic Region. They make a traditional hat out of Palms there, so there were lots of hats. They had a seminar before the dance on emergency preparedness in Bogota that was really good. They have earthquakes here so it was about earthquake preparation. The two pictures below show the set up for the dance. The room we are in is the chapel on Sunday. The Benches are movable and so they are pushed back against the wall to make dance floor.


They had a live band. I took video that I posted below but I took it with my little digital camera and there is no sound.You can see some of the hats here:
This is Miguel Angel and Nancy Bosa. They are getting to be good friends.


Typical of teenagers the girls all congrigated on one side and boys on the other.







There were old people and ninos. This little sister is 94. She and I danced for a few minutes. She is with her daughter here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Horses

This city is so very interesting. There are street vendors everywhere. There are little stands on every corner almost and in the middle of the block people lay out blankets or sheets of plastic and display items on them, Food of all kinds is sold by street venders but they also sell cell phone minutes and cell phones and umbrellas and pens and jewelry and newspapers and maps and just about anything else you can think of. One minute they may have a display of cell phones and remote controlls for TV's or game joysticks and then it will start to rain and they will bring out umbrellas and scarfs and hats. The food booths sells every thing from hot meat arapas (kind of like a peta bread stuffed with hot meat or whatever) to ice cream and fruit and every thing in between. They are resupplied by two or three wheeled bicycles that bring in supplies. The picture below shows a street vender and a resupply tricycle. You can't see the front of the resupply wagon just the back two wheels but the guy that is resuppling the vendor just rode up as we got there.


Bicycles and motorcycles and horse drawn carts are important for transportation. We have seen them carrying things you would not believe. We saw a motor cycle with 4 or 5 sticks of 1 inch pvc pipe straped to the side sticking out the front and the back of the bike. The pipes were at least 10-12 ft long. The next thing we saw was two motorcyclests working together to carry a floor polisher. Bicycles routinely pass us with push brooms and equipment for street cleaning. Both Bicycles and motorcycles serve as delivery vehicles for all kinds of resturants and local merchants. The guy below is loading up to deliver Hambergers but they also deliver pizza and chinise food and packages, as well as pipe, floor polishers, and whatever else needs to be moved. There are big trucks and major construction projects but there is a whole economy that is very family entrepernurship oriented (how do you like that for a sentence). The bicycles and motorcycles help supply this economy.


Horse drawn carts like the ones below pick up the wood crates and cardboard boxes from the venders and remove them from the area. They compete for space on the streets with the cars and buses and motorcycles. The bicycles have there own paths and watch out when then they are headed toward you with a full load.


The city is remarkably clean. The horse drawn carts provide one part of the garbage/recycle system. There are regular trucks that pick up on the major steets. Businesses and residences have certain days and times that they put garbage out on the street and then a truck and runners come by and pick it up. On the interior streets where regular truck traffic is not a good idea, hand drawn carts do the same job. See below.
Street sweepers sweep the dirt and leaves and debry from the street by hand. You can see them working along the sides of the road even in heavy traffic. People acctually wash and polish the stones outside their building. (That's why the floor polisher). On saturday especailly there are all kinds of business cleaning the tile and stone and sidewalk outside of their buildings.

The pictures below were taken on Sunday as we walked to Church. The city shuts down on Sunday. Most roads are closed to all but emergency traffic and major road ways are turned into bicycle ways so people can ride or push strollers or wheel chairs without any traffic. It is called Cyclevia and it occurs every sunday and on holidays. I stopped on the bridge over one of the main autopistas in the city and took several shots so you could see the city scape. (Remember this is our little part ie 2/12's of 1/4 review the last post for reference)



Below are some glimpses of traffic. Remeber the pictures above were taken on Sunday when traffic is blocked from major roadways.