Sunday, May 26, 2013

Third World Dentistry

I have had the opportunity to use my dental background for some different projects here.  President was excited in my first interview when I told him I am a dentist, retired but still with an active Idaho license.  He had been trying to get several young people out on missions and the dental part of the application had been holding some of them up.  We devised a plan and I have actually been able to help about 6 get their papers sent in and move forward on the application track.  The emphasis at home was to do a thorough dental exam and not only get the young people ready to go on missions, but to get all the disease removed and hope to have it done for the rest of their lives.  That is not the emphasis here.  We are more concerned about the next two years.  It is a lot like the military experience I had in Germany, getting the young troops ready to deploy to the Middle East.  They were deployable if they could eat the rations and if they did not have any potential problems that would cause trouble in the next two years. I have learned that it is vastly different.

Here on Tortola I have made friends with a dental coleague who comes over from St Thomas a couple of days per week.  He has a car and an apartment here and when he is here he works 12-14 hours non-stop.  He has a tiny office with bare essentials, two operatories, no assistant, and only a poorly trained telephone answering receptionist. She spends most of her time answering the phone and playing games on the computer, or watching TV.  His name is Andrew Buckley, DMD, educated at Illinois, comes from New England.  Anyway, he has let me bring in a couple of our young men and take radiographs so I could do a proper exam.  He even let me bring Gaye in to repair a chipped front tooth.  So here are some photos of his office.  I am really impressed that he can work in these conditions.  He uses old-fashioned films and processor.  I mentioned that he has no assistant.  None.  The whole office is about the size of our reception room in Twin Falls.  Last week the power was off for 6 hours (it happens frequently) and he was running on an emergency generator that barely provided enough power to get the work done.  I am glad I am retired.  

There are usually chairs out here for a waiting area.

I am standing right in the front door.  The front office is barely big enough for one person.

Tashima.  She answers the phone.

Second operatory.  Quite narrow.

First Op. Film processor is in the lower Right.

Lab, sterilizer room, supplies, lunch room, fridge, etc

Looking back out towards reception area.

Fixed her smile.  She is much happier.

Tashima.  She likes to pose for photos.

New Digs for YFTM

View from present YFTM apartment
 New Elders

We have had a lot of transfers lately.  There is usually no or very little notice before one or both are suddenly moved out.  One effect of that is to not get too close to any of them.  They will be pulled right out from under our feet.  Anyway, we now have a couple of great elders serving in Tortola.  Elder Taylor is from Colorado and Elder Smith is from Tooele Utah.  Taylor and Smith.  Pretty common Mormon family names.

Present YFTM digs
Our YFTM (young full-time missionaries) have been living above Cane Garden Bay on the north-west coast of Tortola.  
Cane Garden Bay from current YFTM apartment

The layout of this island is rugged with a narrow strip of land along the coast and a high, rugged ridge that runs the complete length of the island, like the Continental Divide in Western US.  The main population centers are in the middle of the south side at Road Town and at East End not far from where we live.  The YFTM, however, have been living high on a hill side far from those two population centers.  They have the big Toyota Tacoma truck  to drive up and down those high and very steep roads.  The truck gets around 11-12 mpg.  We drive Suzzie, on the other hand, and get around 21-22 mpg.  It is one of the mysteries of the mission.

When we were first sent to Tortola a hundred years ago in November 2012 President told us we need to find a place for the YFTM to live where they can be closer to the people on flat land where they can use their bikes and park the second most expensive car in the mission.  We started to look in earnest and were told that we could not do anything until closer to the end of May when the present contract would end.  We kept our eyes and ears open but we could not really start to look seriously until a few weeks ago.  Then we had a very small time window to find a place because we had given notice the beginning of April that we would not be renewing the present contract.

We found a few places to check out but they were either too high on the hill sides or too expensive or too far from the population centers.  The clock was ticking.  Then one day I stopped in at the real estate office that has been helping us with other projects over the past few months and I asked if they had found anything.  She acted like this was a new request, which it was not, and took my contact information.  Then she said she had a friend who had just told her that she had an apartment that would meet our needs.  She called the lady right then, and then told me that it would be available very soon, but that someone else was in line ahead of us, so we would need to check back in 3 days.  I thanked her and left somewhat discouraged because it seemed that we might have missed the best lead we had had since we started looking.

The next day the real estate lady called me to say that she thought she had found what we were looking for (it was the same place she had mentioned the day before), and I needed to come to the office to help them determine what things we would need to have in the apartment for furnishings.  I went over and told her that the mission already owns the missionary beds and that we can provide dishes, silver ware, pots and pans, a table, etc, and that all we would really need was a stove and a fridge.  We had previously discussed the budget restraints and I told her that that number was very firm.  The mission housing director told me that it must be under a certain figure, but we already knew there was nothing available at that number.  Besides, the mission was paying $100 more than that for the place they were already living in.  To make it short, we looked at the apartment and it is exactly what we have been looking for!  Even the price was right.

I contacted the mission office to report to them.  Over the past few months we have had some really confusing and frustrating experiences with the area real estate office in trying to deal with the rules and regulations that an organization as big as the Church must of necessity have.  A friend many years ago told me to never let the bureaucracy of the Church to ruin my testimony.  I appreciate that counsel.  The church real estate office sent me a contract that they insist we use.  I took that to the realty company and they said they will use their own contract and not ours.  Proverbial rock and hard place sort of trap.  Finally I contacted one of the mission staff, a retired judge, and he said he would try to help.  What he found out was that if we did not use the company’s contract we would be back to square one because they would absolutely not use our contract.

I think I have prayed more about this particular problem than any I can remember.  It has been really frustrating to realize that there is nothing more I can do.  Prayers are answered, however, and we just received authorization from president to proceed with the project.  So tomorrow I will go to the real estate company office and get the contract going.  They have to sign it, then I need to send it to President for his signature, and then it will be returned to me so I can take it to the company.  Then, fingers crossed, we will be able to start moving the elders.  The month ends next Friday.  Here are some photos.

New Neighborhood

Getting there.  Might need to walk the bikes up this one.

Suzzie parked in the driveway.

Apartment entry

Balcony view


Bedroom area


Inspiration room

The new apartment is bottom floor above the retainer wall.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Baptism Bay

We had another baptism.  Marcus has been coming to church for the past several months with his older brother Orlando and sister Nakisha and his younger sister.  The mom is a member but the dad is not, yet.  We have a good relationship with the family.  The dad has been reluctant to let Marcus be baptized because he (Dad) does not feel that he is ready.  I have asked the dad, I have asked the mom, I have asked the mom to ask the dad, I have asked the elders to ask the dad, I have asked Orlando and Kisha to ask the dad, and I have asked Marcus to ask the dad if he can be baptized.  Our elders have been going to the home several evenings each week to read the Book of Mormon with the kids.  Last week they suggested that Marcus ask his dad.  They had their usual prayer and he prayed that his dad would allow him to be baptized.

Last Fast Sunday Marcus stood up and expressed his gratitude that his dad is allowing him to baptized on his 11th birthday, May 15.  There were a few communication breakdowns, but with the help of The Spirit we patched things up and on Wednesday evening at the west end of Long Bay we witnessed the baptism of Marcus by his brother Orlando.  It was sweet.  The interaction of the two of them after the baptism is recorded on film.  I hope you enjoy having a peek into this wonderful event.

Elder Hammer is pointing at a small stingray

Hold you nose

Congratulations, Brother Marcus

Dad couldn't be there but this was with his approval

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Joshua St Rose Mission Call

Dear Elder St Rose...
Joshua received his mission call.  His family has a mail box at the same place we do, so I asked the girls at the office if he had any large letters in his mail box.  I didn't want to get the letter, I just wanted to know.  Nothing.  Then one day I was walking over to check the mail and there was Joshua headed for the same place.  There was a large letter waiting for him.  He retrieved the letter and took it out to show his mother who was waiting for him in the truck.  They wanted to open it at Mutual the next evening, so they gave it to me to keep safe until then.
St Rose Family and Lisa
The next evening we had many from the branch at the church to participate in the Opening of the Call ceremony.  New York New York South is what it said.  He will go to the Provo MTC, which is what he wanted.  Enter the MTC September 3.  That is months away, but it will take that long to get his visa. So everybody is excited.  Now we just have two more to go.  Then our little branch will have SEVEN missionaries out.  That is more than some stakes in Puerto Rico have.

Jurmaine had a chemo tx today, so he is not feeling really hot.

The Morning Walk on Tortola

Random Scenes from our Morning Walks
We see this gentleman out walking his boss' dog every morning

A private driveway
The Wall
Another Private Driveway
Flowers along the way

Termite Nest-One of Many on the Trail

Egg Plant
Bad Hair Day

This lady walks from town every day to work at one of the homes.  She is from Dominica.
Suzzie patiently waiting for us to return
We also go out walking about four mornings per week, right past Baptism Bay.  It is a 2 mile route and goes up and down some very steep hills and through some beautiful scenery.  I will just say the roads here surprised me at first because of how steep they are.  It is not uncommon to have 30-40 degree slopes on driveways and even main roads.  The Ashton Grade is 5%, which is a steep road for snow country.   But since there is no snow here the roads can be much steeper.  Forty-five degrees is 100% slope.  We walk along the flatter sections of the trail as fast as we can walk and then try to march up the sloped sections without stopping.  The longest section is about 400 yards so it is a vigorous climb.  I get my pulse clear up to 115 bpm on that section.  While I wait for Gaye to come up, a little more slowly, I pick up my 15 lb. rock and lift it over my head as many times as I can.  Then we walk on around the hill and reverse the direction to do it again.
Along the way I have located a few large rocks of various weights that I stop and lift at least 10 times over my head.  I also have three large rocks that I lean against and do 20 pushups.  They are not full horizontal pushups but they are a good workout.  Pushing this old hefty body away from a vertical wall is a good workout.  By the end of our 50 minute, 2 mile walk and exercise route we are both sweating profusely.  That is because we are working hard, but also because the relative humidity is over 80% with the temperature in the high 70 to 80F range.  It takes a while to stop the perspiring after we get back to our apartment, which is about 10 minutes by car from the walking route.  So now you know more about our daily routine.