Sunday, January 27, 2013

Music in Tortola Branch

January 27, 2013

Jose DaSilva (that is pronounced Jo-sie) led the singing in church today. Jose is almost 15, handsome and bright, out going, normal young man.  Last week I taught the conducting course in Mutual.  It was not a smashing success, but there were a couple of the young people who caught on.  Jose was one.  He has never had music lessons.  He doesn’t really sing very well.  But he has a sense of rhythm and could feel the downbeat well.  When I asked for a volunteer to lead the closing song he stepped right up.

The singing has been led by Sister Kalama.  She does it well, but she is also the BP’s wife, YW president, and just about everything else in the branch.  The Kalama family took a three-week holiday to Hawaii.  Their two oldest daughters just received their mission calls, so they went back to Hawaii to receive their temple endowments there.  Hina, the younger of the two, is going to a Spanish California mission and enters the Provo MTC on February 13.  Hali’a will stay in Hawaii and work until she enters the MTC in April, on her way to a mission in the Philippines.  So they are away from the branch.  They will be pleasantly surprised to see Jose conducting the singing when they return.

These photos were taken with my iPhone.  Not as good quality as with my Canon, but you get the message.  These are along the place we walk some mornings.

The counsellor in the branch presidency is Brother Andrew Glasgow.  You have met his little daughter Fayth.  When Sister Glasgow was expecting the baby she also found that she had cancer and her doctors told her that she must terminate the pregnancy so they could treat the cancer.  She would not do it.  Fayth was 8 weeks early but she is now normal and active and cute as a bug (think of a cute bug). Anyway, they are originally from St Maarten and their English is different from everybody else here.  He is a boat mechanic and works basically 6 long days per week.  They have one son on a mission and another sending in his papers.  When President Kalama is gone the conducting of meetings is up to Brother Glasgow.  He does not enjoy that experience.  But today he conducted and he did just fine.  He spoke up, he made some comments at the conclusion of the meeting, and it gave him enormous confidence.

The moral is that when we let people do things that are uncomfortable, they grow.  We all grow when that happens.  Our little choir is working on a number for branch conference in February.  They were timid about it at first, but after we ran through the piece a few times they were more confident and it is starting to sound wonderful.  I probably sound like a proud papa, but these people really warm my heart.  We now have one of Gaye’s young women keyboard students playing each week, although she is in Hawaii for the next three weeks.  We have some other students who are almost ready to play.  We have a young man conducting, and we have a branch choir.  We are not as busy teaching investigators as we would like, but I feel that our time here is producing great rewards in the increased feelings of peace and spirituality that are resulting from having more participation in the music of the branch.  Anybody who has thought about it knows that few things can affect our inner feelings as quickly and deeply as good music.

We have had a few hard rain showers in the past few days.  The big puddle at the church parking lot, Lake Tortola, is full again.  I don’t think the little car that went in there was ever recovered.  : ^ )   When it rains it comes down in a gray sheet of water.  The metal roofs really resonate and streams of water flow from the roofs and rain gutters.  But then it stops as suddenly as it starts and the sun comes out, or the moon or stars if it is at night.  The nights are still in the 70’s and the days are mid-80’s.  The warm season is about to start when range of temps goes up 10 degrees on both ends.  Sometimes we have not turned on our AC in the apartment, but I think it will be going most of the time once the warmer weather arrives.  Hurricane season starts in May.  This will be interesting.

We are well.  I think I have gained a few inches since getting here and I am tired of carrying it around.  I was thinking about it a couple of days ago.  I eat things that are not good for me, like bread from Tyler’s bakery and passion fruit jelly, because they taste good.  They really do taste good.  The result is not good, however.  It is just like the rats I have been catching.  They die because they eat the wrong things.  So I am going to eliminate the rat poison from my life.

I visited a dental office in Road Town.  I will try to get some photos and write about it next time.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Little Things

January 25, 2013

Elder Neil L Andersen will be visiting the mission next month, so we are all excitedly making plans for travel and lodging in Puerto Rico.  We will have a Senior Couple Conference, along with meetings with all the other missionaries in the mission.  There is a stake conference on Sunday, February 10.  We will stay over with the Peterson’s until Monday so we can go shopping and look around Old San Juan.  It will be fun and rewarding to get together with some other missionaries for a few days.

We have been helping a couple of young men get their mission applications completed.  They want to be gone on their missions as soon as possible.  Our little branch will then have 6 missionaries serving.  That is more than many wards and more than some stakes.  We are all being blessed by the faithful service of these young people. One of them needed the dental exam done, but he said he could not get in to see his dentist until May.  May?  How could they be that busy?  Anyway, Kim sent my loupes and Mark Lambert donated some instruments, so I put the young man into a chair in our apartment and did a good exam on him.  I don’t have any x-rays, but his mouth appears to be in really good shape.  He just needs a couple of small cavities filled and 4 simple wisdom teeth extractions.  I could do it in 10 minutes if I had the instruments and supplies.  Now he can send in his papers instead of waiting until May.  

The other pre-missionary needs a TB test done.  He has been waiting for several weeks for the public health clinic to get it done.  They won’t do it until they have 10 people sign up.  That might not be until July.  So I went to visit a private clinic and I found out that it will cost $25 for them to do the test. Then it will be sent to the public health clinic doctor who will read it and write the report.  However, when I took him in to that clinic yesterday to have the test done they said they are out of reagent and will not be able to do it until next Wednesday. 

We are working hard to find things to keep us busy.  We teach a lot of lessons, but not any that the bean counters want to keep track of.  No matter, though.  I know Him for whom I am working.  Every one of His sheep is precious and our calling is to invite all to come unto Christ by ... enduring to the end.  Working to retain new converts or trying to bring back those who have temporarily wandered from the shelter is as important as bringing in new ones.  All are alike unto God.

We have a member who comes down here with her husband from Canada.  They sold a business for  a lot of money and they just move from Canada to Tortola as they will.  Sister Hill invites us to dinner regularly.  She showed us her yacht that they have put up for sale so they can buy a bigger one with a crew to sail it.  

Master Bedroom
One of three heads
Living area
One of three bedrooms
The listed price is $700,000. 
Racing Yacht
 They have a racing boat right next to it, made completely of carbon fiber. It is worth about $3M.  There is a lovely 82 Oyster next to them.
Minimum crew of three to sail that one.  It is worth about $7M.  There is another life out there that most of us don't even know exists.

I, the great rat hunter, have disposed of three, count ‘em, three rats in the past 4 days.  The first one was clever and ate the peanut butter right off the trigger plate.  I impaled a piece of apple on the plate, smeared peanut butter on top of the apple, and waited.  Well, really I went to sleep.  Next morning, there was the first rat in the trap, the trigger plate all slicked off.  I guess he stuck around to lick the plate clean and that got him (her?).  I threw it in the trash, trap and all.  

The second was the very next morning.  It looked like a youngster, almost full grown.  Every morning I noticed that some of the Coumadin pellets were gone so I assumed the rats have been having headaches, too. This one was not caught in the trap, but the trap was set off and the rat was beside it, having exsanguinated from a wound somewhere.  That one was set with a piece of granola bar tied to the trigger plate with dental floss.  Dental floss has many good uses in addition to removing plaque from teeth.

I did not think there would be a third, but when I looked at the poison bait I could see that someone else had been eating, so I set another trap.  It also had bait tied on with floss. That trap had caught the unfortunate rodent by the tip of its nose.  No matter.  It was dead.  I disposed of rat and trap in the garbage.

Last night I set another trap, but there is no evidence of any more visitors to our balcony during the night.  I think I will keep it set from now on.  This one has a piece of granola bar super glued to the trigger plate.  That is the end of the rat chapter.

Stay tuned.

Next day.  Make it four rats.  Caught another one last night.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Tonight I taught the conducting course to the kids at Mutual.  I think some of them got it and some of them didn’t.  It is fun to try, though.  Two of the girls are from Haiti.  They have had a bit of a reputation because they sort of stand off from the other kids in the branch.  I think it is just that they want to fit in but they go to a different high school and they speak Creole-influenced English.  One of them, the younger one about 15 named Emacula, was sitting in the room reading her texts on her phone.  Gaye’s student had not arrived and appeared to not be coming.  That is always frustrating.  I asked Emacula if she would like to take the lessons and she quickly responded that she would.  She and Gaye hit it right off.  She has an aptitude for music.  This might be something that keeps her involved in the Church and might save her life.  Most people just want to be loved and accepted.

Yesterday we were at the grocery store where a lady came up to me and asked if we are still doing the glasses.  That goes back a ways.  When President Alvarado let it be known that he was coming with musical missionaries with a Christmas program, he also said he wanted to participate in a glasses clinic.  So I tried to arrange for space at the Rite Way grocery store to set it up.  Sandra is an employee who just saw a need and helped me get to the right people.  It turned out that we did not do the clinic, but twice after that first encounter I saw her at the store.  She always initiated the conversation, asking if I got what I needed.  Today she was interested in getting glasses for her husband who is having a hard time reading lately.  He is about 40 and his arms are getting shorter.  We told her we could help her at the church in the afternoon and made an appointment to meet around 4:30.

I was there helping with the music lessons when Sandra and her husband walked through the door.  I got out the glasses, did the reading test, and found a pair of glasses of the right strength so he could read comfortably.  They are from Guyana, like many other people here.  They have three children, but only the youngest is here.  The other two, both young teenagers, are still in Guyana living with her sister.  That is also a common arrangement.  That would be hard.

After the glasses were chosen I asked them about the Church.  The conversation was easy to get started, which sort of surprised me.  She said she had actually gone to church in Guyana, three times.  Did she like it?  Yes, she did.  I invited her to come and meet with us any time, I obtained her phone number, and I told her I would be in touch with her to make sure the glasses were working and to see if we could come and visit them.  She said that would be fine.

I will pursue this.  Sandra and Andrew have a nice spirit about them. It will be good to get to know them and to share our testimony of the blessings of families with them.

I don't want to be gross, so turn away if you want to.  Scratch one rat.  It stuck its nose into one too many peanut butter and apple treats.  Note that it had eaten all the bait, however.  Next time I will tie it on with dental floss.  Anyway, now it has gone to Rat Heaven.  Do rats go to heaven?  I think they will need to change some of their behaviors if they do.  There was also ample evidence that it had come in on the ledge.  The little critter had learned that it could walk along the 2-inch wide ledge around two blind corners and get a reward at the end.  Furthermore, it had to come up two flights of stairs or climb over a three-foot wall in order to get to the ledge in the first place. That is quite impressive, actually. So I think I will be setting another trap and leaving the D-con out forever.  Smart or not, they give me the creeps.   There are also some other critters that are now recorded.  Photos are posted below.

Note the cleaned up dinner plate
I bet he had a tummy ache too.

Poop on the Ledge
Harmless Tarantula, Elders' Apt. Cute.
Large Moth
Spider on the Truck
Katydid (She really did you know!)

The ubiquitous cockroaches

Coqui Frogs

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Early Morning Baptism

Last night I had the blessing of interviewing Lisa Rambalack for baptism.  She is the girlfriend of Jurmaine St Rose, a member of the branch.  
Lisa and Theresa St Rose
Jurmaine has been undergoing treatment for Hodgkins Lymphoma.  His last PET scan was clean, so he has two more treatments and then follow-up.  This has been a great blessing.  Last Sunday Juermaine said in his testimony that he is thankful to have had this cancer.  It has brought him to a point that he would not have arrived at otherwise.  It was a sweet and humble, powerful witness of God’s love for His children.  My tears would not stay inside my eyes.  Anyway, it was my blessing to visit with Lisa to give her the privilege of promising to be faithful and to keep the covenants of baptism that she would be taking today.  It was a sweet experience to pronounce that she is ready to be baptized into the Kingdom of God.

This morning we awoke at 0530, much earlier than usual.  We got up, dressed, drove to town to pick up our Elders Quorum President, Br Pollard, and his family.  They don’t have a car and they wanted to attend the baptism.  We drove back to the east to Baptism Bay.  It is really called Long Bay, but this is where our baptisms are held.  The wind was really blowing and the temperature was actually a little bit cool.  Maybe I am just getting acclimatized but it was in the middle 70’s and felt cool but wonderful.  We were the first ones there.  The Elders arrived next, but clear across the bay.  We were at the wrong end of the bay, but that was quickly corrected.

Others arrived in short order.  There was a good congregation to witness the baptism.  We sang a hymn, had a prayer, had a couple of short, good talks, witnessed the baptism, sang another hymn, had a closing prayer and left.  That is the quick summary.  Here are the details.

Lisa was baptized by Jurmaine.  She is about 5 feet tall in heels.  He is over 6 feet.  
Lisa and Jurmaine
They are a cute couple.  Lisa wore the smallest suit the elders had and it about drowned her.  No matter.  Jurmaine led her about 10 yards into the water.  It was up to his waist but much higher on her.  Elder Ivie and Elder Newman were out there as witnesses.  It is the only time the YFTM’s get to go into the ocean past the soles of their feet.  They all love to have baptisms!

When Jurmaine first put his foot into the water he looked back with a grin on his face.  Is it cold?  He nodded.  Lisa was the last to go in, and she went boldly but the coolness of the water was registering on her face.  
She was excited to be doing this, though.  Jurmaine pronounced the revealed prayer to be used at baptism, and Lisa was carried under the water and brought forth again, in symbolic representation of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  This represents the death of the old person and the birth of the new, a witness that old things are done away and all has become new.  It is because of the Atonement of Jesus that we can take this symbolic step of cleansing and rebirth. It was a sweet experience for all who attended. 
Lisa, Jurmaine, younger brother Jamoll
The wind died down and the sun came out.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Rats, Cockroaches, and History

I recall a book from my history days.  I was a History Major at Ricks and BYU and graduated from BYU with a BA in History. (I minored in Chemistry.) It was a good field to study,  I learned to read critically and to write crisply.  I learned that primary sources are important and that secondary sources need to be challenged regularly and deeply if the real truth is to prevail.  I couldn’t see any way to make a living with History, however, so I went to dental school.  I think having the degree in History actually helped me get into the University of Washington Dental School.  I have never been sorry of my major.

The book was Rats, Lice, and History by Hans Zinser.  It told the story of how rats with their fleas, and lice with their own pathologic bacteria, played major roles in the history of the world.  Rats  are considered the host vectors of the Bubonic Plague that wiped out about 45-50% of Europe’s population in the Middle Ages, peaking 1348-1350.  That infective agent, bacillus Yersinia Pestis, was carried in fleas that parasitized the rats.  The fleas bit the rats and then they bit the people.  The rats did not die, but the people sure did.  The massive shift in population led to religious, economic, and social upheavals that have had enormous effect on western development.

Tortola Sunset

I was fishing with a friend in Alaska and, as we fought off life-threatening hordes of mosquitoes, we noticed balls of mono-filament fishing line everywhere.  He sagely ventured a prophecy that the earth will be inherited by rats, cockroaches, and mono-filament fishing line.  I could not come up with a valid disagreement.

We had a rat enter our apartment two nights ago. Gaye had gone to bed because we were getting up early to catch the ferry to St Thomas.  I was wrapping up the day and I saw a big gray rat come silently through a hole in the screen door and scurry over under the TV cabinet.  Now I must confess there are few things that I loathe, but mice and rats qualify.  I HATE those rodents!  They give me the heebie-jeebies.  They make my skin crawl.  I consider anything within a mile to be contaminated by the critters.  They are fearless and they multiply rapidly.  So the idea of having one in our apartment was absolutely unnerving to me.  

I ran into the bedroom, flipped on the light (which immediately awakened Gaye), said out loud, “We have a rat in the apartment!”, and picked up a broom to go and do battle with the pest.  I was planning my attack strategy in such a way as to drive it towards the hole through which it entered.  I tried to hold the broom so I would have the best chance of beating the critter to death if it attacked me.  As I was about to maneuver into position, the monster ran quietly across the floor to the hole in the screen and disappeared.  We live on the second floor.  Good Grief!

Wait, I have a theory of the invasion. There is a ledge that runs from our front walkway around to the balcony.  It is wide enough for a rat to do cartwheels.  I’ll bet he came in that way.  Now I know how to lay my defenses.  I knew my ROTC military training would come in handy some day.

I am hunting for rat traps, sticky paper, and even rat poison.  I will lay a field of mines on the balcony and on the approaches that will catch the invader.  I prefer traps because that way I know the varmint is dead.  The sad part is that now I will have to shut the doors to the patio at night.  The night breezes have been cool and refreshing.  Now we are prisoners.  Because of a rat.

Electric Bug Zapper
Large Moth

Coqui Frog

Did I mention that we have mosquitoes and cockroaches and geckoes, too.  The lizards are cute little guys that probably eat bugs.  The insects have got to go.  Here's a photo of a tarantula at the elders' apt. They are harmless.  
Tarantula at Elders' Apt

Stay tuned.