Saturday, March 22, 2014

Side Trips and Celebrations

We have been on the road a lot this past week, mainly to Cabo Rojo.  Looking at a map of Puerto Rico, Cabo Rojo is as far south and west as you can go. It is about 80 miles from here.  The north shore road is the most scenic because that is the windward side of the island so the rainfall is quite abundant.  It is about the same distance by going south the Caguas and then along the south shore.  That is the leeward side, so it is like a desert compared to Arecibo.  It reminds me of driving east along the Columbia River Gorge from Hood River to The Dalles.   
Fruit stand on the road to Mayaguez
Anyway, we drove down there yesterday to get an apartment signed up for the sisters there.  That apartment is right across the street from Shalom Bakery, a panaderia or patisserie with a huge reputation.  So we tried it out and boy, was it good!  Oops, hold the phone.  We just found out that there will be 4 sisters there in stead of 2, so we need to get a different apartment signed up.  This idea of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing has been taken to a whole new dimension down here. No matter.  We have 45 days left, not that anybody is counting.

One of the girls in our Caparra Ward is headed for BYUI in September, so we volunteered to help her get moved in and settled.  Her family had us over for dinner last week so we could visit about the process.  They are excited, and so are we.  We also found out that her grandparents live in Cabo Rojo.  
Grandma and Grandpa Dickson with one of her paintings.  El Faro
These great people have been active members of the Church for several years, and the grandma is really quite a craftsman, doing paintings and ceramics with a Puerto Rico flavor.  
This is Puerto Rico!

Dicksons' Beach House Balcony

Grandpa and two grandkids, fishing
She gave me some pointers on how to make some ceramic pieces that I am anxious to try.  
Don Quixote
Ceramic plate. I think I can do this.
Three Kings.  Three Kings Day, Jan 6, is bigger than Christmas

So they called us to invite us over to their home, see the paintings, visit for a while, and then they took us all down to El Faro.
Cliffs at El Faro

South of Cabo Rojo is a lighthouse called El Faro that is on a little peninsula.  That is the place where one of our elders fell off a cliff into the water below and broke his leg.  The rescue was apparently quite exciting.  He had to go home for 6 months to heal, but he came back, from Boise Idaho, to finish in grand style.  We knew him on Tortola.  Great missionary. 

Last Saturday we went with our friends and co-workers, George and Sharon--sorry, Elder and Sister--Peterson to Las Marias to a community festival.  
This is like a huge tomale.  Good.
It reminded me of TFCF&R (Twin Falls County Fair & Rodeo) with lots of craft booths and lots and lots of food booths. 
Conos, or pizza in a cone.

Fried in hot grease, sort of like scones but thinner.

These bowls are made of deep fried shredded plantains, then filled with chicken and rice.  Dreadful.
Three Kings
This was called the China Festival, which refers to oranges, not a place across the Pacific.  There were all sorts of local food items to try, abundant opportunities for fresh OJ, and some really nice art--paintings, bent wire objects, wood carvings, wood sculptures, ceramics, metal creations, and so on.  
Gourd carving of the manger scene

Birth of a Coqui Frog
Don Quixote is popular subject for art and craft

We purchased a few things, but you can’t see them until we get home in, did I mention, 45 days.  
Just how I feel quite often
There were even a few music performing groups trying to sing some Puerto Rican songs.  Let’s just say that some of the groups are better than others.  There were also some spontaneous jam sessions with the musicians and half the surrounding crowd jumping up and down and singing along.
Wild orchids
Arecibo Observatory
Puerto Rico is a beautiful place.  The people are beautiful and warm, even though they are all Democrats.  We are blessed to be here.

El Faro

Monday, March 17, 2014

March Ponderings

My erratic blog performance is not because nothing has been happening that is noteworthy.  It is just the opposite.  We are working hard every day, trying to get things settled and stable before we leave in just a few short weeks.  There is too much to write about.  There are too many lessons being learned, and being missed, as we careen along.  We have been to the west end of the island three times in the past four days, each time for a different purpose.  We are finding apartments for elders and sisters.  I should say they are finding the apartments and we are going out to write up the contracts and make arrangements for the water and lights to be turned on so the elders and sisters can get moved in.  President handed us a list of 15 that need to be moved before we leave.  He implied that if it is not done, we will not be leaving.  We will get it done!

I have lost a car.  If you see a silver 2014 Chevy Cruze, license IFM 244, please let me know.  I have both keys, so nobody will be driving it away.  It is locked inside some church yard fence.  When the cars were parked on January 1, three groups of us went to the various chapels to collect the keys, the reports, and make sure the vehicles were cleaned and parked in a safe place.  I can tell where the missing car is not, but I don’t know where it is.  I’ll find it, though.  When I do, I will exchange it for one of the cars that is reaching high mileage. (That is relative, though.  The highest has 14,000 miles, but it has been switched for one that has less than 4000.)  

These young missionaries are absolutely adorable, amazing, incredible, inspiring, _________ (put in your own superlative adjective), examples of the best young people on the planet.  There are over 80,000 serving right now across the globe in over 400 missions.  Not to date myself, but when I went out just less than a century ago there were 70 missions.  President McKay had called for 8000, then 12000 missionaries.  Our mission was essentially the whole continent of Africa, but mainly South Africa, Rhodesia, and Zambia (closed soon after I got there), manned by 70 missionaries, one senior couple, and stretched the equivalent distance from Los Angeles to Chicago. There were no stakes, no temples, all presided over by one mission president. The work is being hastened, and we are all invited to get on board, called to invite others to come unto Christ.  

These young men and young women are walking miles every day, meeting and greeting people on the street, inviting them to hear the message we have all brought with us. In this mission I have met elders and sisters from many of the US States, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Haiti, several of the small islands, Puerto Rico, Guyana, and I am sure I am leaving someone out.  They come in all sizes, many colors of hair and skin, a variety of styles of Spanish, some quite fluent in English and some painfully self-conscious as they timidly try a few English words, and with various stages of church and life experience.  They all have some things in common, however.  All are children of a loving Heavenly Father, all have been called and empowered to preach the gospel of repentance, all want to be loved and accepted, all are beautiful, and my love for them is beyond anything I can express.  I hope I have been a blessing to this mission.  I KNOW this mission has been a blessing to me and to Gaye.

US, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru

US, Costa Rica

Mexico, Dominican Republic

US, Dominican Republic

Iggie is from Puerto Rico

Check this out.

Friday, March 7, 2014


How I feel sometimes

Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMV’s) have a bad reputation.  I am not saying it is not justified, but they have a bad reputation.  It is always a place where time seems to  be without any value to people.  At least it is where the officials do not seem to value anybody else’s time.  I am not sure why it has to be that way, but it is the same everywhere.  Avoid going to the DMV if at all possible.

Look at those lug nuts!
Last week I was driving faster than I should have.  We received a text from President telling us to go get the elders in Utuado, a remote place in the middle of the island. 
Road to Utuado
There is not a quick way to get there.  It was late on Saturday night, we were tired, and we had to go get the elders because they did not have water or electricity in their apartment.  Come on, Boy Scouts go without electricity or water every weekend.  They had gallons stored for emergencies, so they would have been fine.  In fact, they live just a block from the church.  But we got in the car and drove the hour to get there and take them to Arecibo for the weekend.  They ended up sleeping on the floor of the other elders’ apartment.  I was stopped for going too fast through a reduced speed area.  I did not see the sign. The trooper was really nice, almost apologizing for stopping me.  He told me I have 30 days from then to pay the ticket.

I decided it would be best to pay the fine early in the day because the reputation of the DMV in Puerto Rico is even more negative than other places.  So this morning, about 1000, I drove to the DTOP office ( I have no idea what those initials stand for but it is the Puerto Rican equivalent of the DMV) to take care of my civic duty.  

I knew it was going to be grim when I could not find a parking spot within a block.  

Actually the place is on a busy highway and there were cars parked on the sidewalks, 

including a big unit that pulls big trailers.  
I am walking in the street because the vehicles are on the sidewalk.

The actual parking lot was bedlam.  

I think the people who pulled into the parking lot thinking they were saving time because they would not have to walk more than 10 steps, those people were probably still trying to unscramble the mess at closing time this afternoon.  It was worse than trying to get out of a parking lot at a BYU football game.
I entered the building and saw several lines snaking around the room.  Nobody was speaking English and there were no English signs telling me what to do.  I saw a wheelchair-accessible window on the far wall with a lady sitting behind the glass, so I went there.  There was nobody else in the line and it said something about express or fast or something like that.  I leaned down to talk through the hole at the bottom of the window.  I don’t know why they do it here, but everywhere in public offices, except in a bank, the people who are “serving” the public are behind a glass wall, through which communication does not happen.  There is a lot of shouting and gesticulating to try to get the message across.  It is the worst arrangement I can imagine anybody devising.  Some bureaucrat with nothing more to do, I suppose.

Anyway, I said I had a question, to which the lady behind the glass said, “I don’t speak English.”  I pushed the ticket through the hole.  She asked me in broken English “want to pay ticket?” to which I nodded in assent.  She indicated that she could help me.  She tried with great difficulty to read the writing on the form, would smile when she figured out what the scrawl said, and eventually, after about 5 minutes of work, she printed out a letter and handed it and the ticket back to me, indicating that I would need to go to the next building to pay the ticket.  I thanked her and left.  

I have been told that that first stage of the process usually takes half a day of standing in various lines trying to communicate with non-English clerks to get the letter.  What the letter says is that the car does not have any outstanding fines.  Yep.  The car gets the fine, not the driver.  When it comes time to re-register the car, if there are any fines outstanding, the vehicle cannot be registered until the fines are resolved (paid for).  Go figure.
Sisters from Mexico and Dominican Republic.  Love these ladies!
I went to the next building where a guard at the door looked at my paperwork and nodded approvingly (I think she was surprised that I had already obtained the necessary letter), indicating that I should wait in the line forming across the entryway.  In a few minutes she beckoned me to go into the building, where I stood in another line for 15 minutes before being called by the next available public servant to come to his work station.  He didn’t speak Spanish, either, but he was also nice and friendly.  He asked for my driver’s license, and when he saw Idaho written on the front he acted a bit surprised.  I smiled and nodded, saying, “Great American potato.”  That brought a smile to his face.  He told me how much to pay, I handed it over, he signed the papers and I was finished.  It took less than an hour to do something that I had been told would take at least 3 hours and be worth several higher blood pressure points than I wanted to admit.  I walked back out through the jumbled parking lot, walked the block to my car, and drove to the office to get to work on my vehicle report. It was not yet noon.

Friendly office elders.  Love these men!
It was a great day.  And tomorrow is our 41st wedding anniversary.  
Wedding anniversary is as good as any reason to celebrate.  Love you, Babe.

Time flies when we are having fun.  Stay tuned.