Sunday, October 30, 2011

Do I have hunger at my house?

David here. 1st blog entry EVER! I hope to get better despite our companionship understanding that Delynn is in charge of all things TECHNICAL and I am in charge of all things DIRECTIONAL. It seems to be working so far.

We absolutely love it here, and we believe that we were called of God to serve at this time with these people. They have such a simple gladness and joy about having the gospel. Their laughter is spontaneous and bouyant (in fact, Delynn says that I appear to be quite a bit more funny in Africa than in other places);) Actually, we have been most impressed with their level of education--especially the word choices and phrasing. Since we are both lovers of language, it has been wonderful to hear the diplomatic yet precise word choices. I am sure that we will be more impressed once we can understand more than every 3rd word! Seriously, we pray daily to be blessed with the gift of tongues, so that we can understand what they say. We have given some serious "deer in the headlight" looks this first week--then we look at each other for help--and the African person knows to start over.

One quick story: my wool suit may never be worn here, but since I absolutely demolished it during the two-week long plane trip I decided to find one of two dry cleaners listed in this city of 4M. We finally found it, and when I went in there were about 5 employees engaged in a conversation about wasting of food. They politely included me, and one said something about 1/5th of our food is wasted and could be helping the starving children. I nodded in agreement, and then engaged another delightful woman in getting my cleaning ticket. At the end she asked me (so I thought) if I had hunger. I replied that I did not. Do I have hunger at my house, I was asked. "I do not," I replied and nervously looked out at Delynn sitting in the air conditioned car for help. The kind lady asked me if I could bring one back on Wednesday when I picked up my suit. At this point, I inferred that she was talking about feeding the children (canned food drive perhaps?), so I desperately asked if I should bring one can of food on Wednesday. She then took my ticket and wrote "bring 1 hanger." Evidently the custom is to exchange hangers at the dry cleaners.

Ok, power went off (happens often), ac not working, we are sweltering. Grandpa's first blog is history. I had better get lots of comments or I will blog again!

A Day in Africa

After 2 weeks, we're getting the hang of the area. But there are definitely a few things to know.

1. Where to shop: bottom - Ruth's stand. This is just a little stop on the side of the road, and she personalizes everyone's shopping. We stand where the camera is, explain what we'd like, and she collects it for us. We bought several different fruits and vegetables and it came to 18 cedi's ($15 U.S.) Everything is fresh - as in right out of the ground, so we bring it home, wash it, chlorox it, and refrigerate. She is so kind and grateful for the business. Kevin and Pam were our sponsors, so it was definitely a social outing.

2. Next stop - regular market. This is Max Mart, and it's quite a unique experience. There are 3 good Max Marts that carry slightly different varieties, so we have to check our list and remember which store had what. We're finding that the stores DO carry most of what we want, (sometimes U.S. brands), but many times the item is under a different name and in very different packaging. I found Crisco yesterday....for 18 cedi's ($15.00 U.S.!), a large party-size bag of M&Ms for 27 cedi's (now you get the ratio, and no I did not buy that!), and a full chicken for 20 cedi's. Most items are $4-5 more than what we pay at home.

The 2 floors above the market have the convenience items - kitchen things, candles, towels, etc. I wanted to buy a muffin tin to bake cupcakes for our many helpers - but the sales girls/boys, who follow shoppers around and carry the items, had no clue. I did my best pantomime and finally was told, "They're finished (out)," but more will be coming soon. In the mean time, I have friends who graciously loan things - everyone shares. It's really quite fun to roam around and see what is offered, and the selections are really quite good, just expensive.

3. Street scene. These are the street vendors right across from Max Mart. People are everywhere and roam across the street at random. It would be nice if this were the only place where people cross at random, but this is done Everywhere! Main streets, busy streets, side streets, day or night. Scary. Drivers just have to beware. (The worse-case scenario was when we came across a fender-bender, and a dark policeman was re-directing traffic,.. at night,... in camouflage. We were thinking, "Really? Do you not Want us to see you??")
We haven't walked this street yet, but our friends tell us this us a really fun place to find treasures.

4. The next several pictures show our drive to our branch for church.
The dirt road: actually we're not on this for very long - but it is necessary to know the non-rules. Driving rules pertain to foreigners, while the locals pretty much drive how they feel at the moment. If there is an infraction, rarely will they be pulled over... Any rules that did apply to the paved area, definitely are not in force on dirt roads...all bets are off, whoever is there first, wins. It is almost comical to just go with the flow and watch how they maneuver. At an intersection, car #2 honks immediately when the green light appears (also chiming in are cars 3 and 4), just in case car #1 missed the nano-second when the light came on. Hilarious. Everyone honks. We are going to start, just to get in the spirit.

5. House - this is actually a fairly nice home despite the landscaping schemata, and we see several around the area.

6. Tree-lined street. Outside the city of Accra, there are some lovely areas that look typical of Africa. In between, there places with fruit stands and a lot of trash, yet everyone dresses so nice, beautiful women dressed in gorgeous outfits, and for the most part they are tall and 2 inches wide.

7. Our branch. Such great people inside. The only air-conditioning is in the Bishop's office, so we all swealter in the other rooms, but the people are so kind and gracious. They preface everything with, "Yes, please." Two little boys handed me some hand-drawn letters today, and the one printed, "You will be my friend? Please check - yes____ no_____?" Melt. Just melt. The congregation ranges from people with ipads to those who do not read/write in English, they speak a tribal language or French. Part of our assignment is to teach those few to read and write. ( we've had some experience there).

8. Artful tree. We couldn't drive past this tree standing regally in the field. Truly a kodak moment.

We've met several students this week as they have come to pick up their school loans, and they are so grateful for the chance to go to college. They guys come dressed in shirts and ties, and the girls wear their nicest dresses. They show such respect for everyone involved with the church loans; they extend their hands and use their very nicest manners. They get the money, but the pay-off is all ours.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Our apartment..

Before we got here, John and Connie Woodward lived here - they provided a positive aura! John was greatly needed to help out here before heading back to Utah, and this kind man stocked the apartment with all kinds of needed supplies: cleansers, trash bags, cereal, staples - what a good friend. We first arrived late at night, but we had all the necessities to enjoy the next few days. Our thanks to such good friends.

We basically have 2 rooms - and they are just fine. The elevator is 10 feet away from our door - we're on the 3rd floor. And we have darling neighbors - the Woods. He is 85, she is 81, and they are the cutest couple. He walks everyday, and was an Idaho Teacher of the Year - some year - and taught music and French. She gives voice/piano lessons now..way cute, and they are here as temple missionaries.
top left: bedroom. The bed is way comfortable and behind the curtains, we have a view of the tree tops and into the city of Accra. I love the lights at night - it is my favorite thing. Also, I see the sunsets - gorgeous.
top right: walk-by closet. All of our belongings from our 4 suitcases fit in here. The "cleaning room" is at the end..housing the mop, ironing board, etc. Most of our things got here, but before we left we were told "bring chocolate chips." Instant friend-makers. The women in our building love to bake, but ingredients are hard to get, or non-existent. We put in some extra bags of chips and now some person working in baggage is our new best friend and enjoying some choc chips.
bottom left: la bureau! (practicing my French) and le salon (living room). Again behind the curtains is the same view - and it is the redeeming factor of the place. However, the garbage cans are directly below us and one has to just "look over" those.
bottom right: la cuisine: it works, it's adequate. It's just that I don't know yet what to fix in there. I think of something I want to make, then get to the store and it's not to be found. does not eat the salad here...ever. All fruits/veg's must be washed in chlorox, so we're still figuring it out. My new friends say they will give me lots of ideas...not to worry. Did splurge and bought a box of Frosty Flakes (my fav) for $7.
That's it...the 2-roomer. It's all good.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Our First Day

Everyone has been sooo nice to us. We walked to the office this morning and started meeting the many people who will be helping us -security people, human resources, custodians, tech crew, bosses. The humidity is high, but we keep reminding ourselves that this is just like Costa Rica (where Danny and family are), and we managed that just fine. The traffic is crazy - yet they don't go fast enough to have bad accidents. They love the horn and use it often - for things like hello, I'm here, you're in my way, go ahead of me, and I'm sure "you're an idiot" is in there somewhere.
We live on the compound that is gated, so we did our walk around it before the sun went down (skeeters come after dark), and it is 1/2 kilometer. It is absolutely gorgeous.
The entry way is lined with these fan-like palms (pic 1).
(pic 2) David and me in front of the temple, which is actually bigger than we expected.
(pic 3) The landscapers keep this place immaculate with tropical foliage - I wanted to
take pictures of everything.
(pic 4) The temple is on the left, our apartments are in the center, and the offices are on the
right. During the day it is filled with people learning genealogy, employees in charge
of travel and transportation, the area lawyer, the area doctor (I'm so pleased!), the
area presidency, and others.
(pic 5) The Paiges: Pam and Kevin. These two are so fun and took us to the bank, 2 markets,
and on a tour of the area. Then, we met them as they were exercising around the
compound as well - they're just a bit faster than we are. They were told if you move
fast enough, the mosquitoes don't have a chance to light. They are from Kamas and will
be home before Christmas.
(pic 6) We did see people today who really do carry things on their heads! Amazing. But it's
considered rude to just drive around taking pictures of people on the street without
asking permission. I get that. These cute ladies were on the compound, though, and
were delighted to have their picture taken - especially after we talked a bit. It is so cute
to see how mothers carry their little ones in a sling on their back. This little doll had
The Cutest smile ever.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Almost ready for Africa...

We've had a week of training in Salt Lake, and it was so fun to walk around Temple Square and see the gorgeous flower beds, reflecting pools, and new brides having their pictures taken. It was perfect weather to be a spectator, when we weren't being students trained in computer programs. We left Salt Lake and Shelly, Tyler, and Bodie Scharman were kind enough to have us stay for 3 days at their beautiful house in Peoa (outside Park City); the view from their front windows is like a magnet; we can't get enough. Staying at their house always feels like Christmas Eve to me -it smells of pine and seasonings and it is warm and cozy. Thanks, Scharmans!
We had a day with our long-time best friends Jeff and LeighAnn Bills in Provo, and met them in the canyon with their student ward (BYU 49th). The kids had hiked to Bridal Veil Falls, then came back to Nunn's Park for lunch and to hear a guest speaker...Jimmy Osmond. He couldn't have been better! He told stories about meeting the Queen of England when he was 9 or so, and told of his mother walking forward to give the Queen a gift. She was immediately surrounded by Scotland Yard, only to be given permission by the Queen to step forward. At this, Mrs. Osmond presented her with her "most prized possession:" a Book of Mormon. The Queen graciously accepted and years later commented to Jimmy, "I remember your mother and the book she gave me."
He further related how Elvis was drawn to his mother and would sit and talk with her whenever time allowed. Elvis had wanted originally to be a preacher and was interested in reading about scriptures. Mrs. Osmond also gave him a Book of Mormon, and when Elvis died, the book was returned to the family. It was touching to note that in one of the margins he wrote, "My daughter needs this..."
His last story was about how he was in the employ of Michael Jackson during Jackson's Bad Tour. They had been childhood friends, and he told how the Osmonds would watch the Jackson's performances and vice-versa. Michael liked to talk about religion and would often walk back to where Jimmy was sitting and ask him questions about his beliefs. Fun stories and we were all riveted.
His final comment to the kids was, be true to your values. People are drawn to high standards and will applaud those who maintain their ideals.
Jeff brought everything to a close relating how the Osmonds had come to La Jolla at his request, to perform a benefit concert for the Neo-natal unit at Scripps Memorial. Their concert had raised over $350,000 for the hospital and before leaving they said to waive their fee -- asking Jeff to "contribute it to the fund." For him, it was an awesome experience to see such generosity. And, because initially he had no idea if the Osmonds would even be available, it was an opportunity for him "to under promise, and over deliver" something that was under his stewardship. What an awesome philosophy for any situation.

Friday, October 14, 2011

PEF Success Stories: Charlotte, Ghana

PEF Success Stories: Charlotte, Ghana

This is a darling story that is so exemplary of the young adults with whom we will be involved. Each of these success stories is touching and humbling - and they help us see that everyone can make a difference. More of these can be seen on the website under "Success Stories."
We learned 3 new computer programs this week....slowly... in preparation for our new callings. Luckily there were other couples with us, and we let them ask the questions we hoped we didn't have to ask.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

We've been in classes!

         This last week we have been training in Salt Lake City (at the old Hotel Utah, which is now the Joseph Smith Building - old and gorgeous, built in 1913!). Our mission calling was to be specialists in the Perpetual Education Fund -but we had all of 2 ounces of knowledge about it...until now. It is different, but fun, being the "learner" instead of the "teacher." When the program was instigated in 2001, it was to help young people (ages 18-30 generally) in 3rd World Countries gain skills through education, with the goal of obtaining better paying jobs in their own countries. Once Pres. Hinckley announced the program, donations came pouring in, and the program has grown ever since. When a student qualifies for help, he/she goes to school, gets a job, then pays the low-interest money back to the fund, so the next person can go to school. The 50,000th person has just received the most recent loan! There are now approximately 70 couples like David and me serving around the world, helping enterprising young men and women of the church with school loans, which will help them learn marketable skills. The program has several steps, but the goal is to build self-reliance, responsibility, integrity, and then, in turn, help others. It has been so fun to hear the success stories from the last 10 years of these young people: some have gotten certificates in accounting and auditing, and some  have become marketing officers, data-entry operators, fire-fighters, tilers, plumbers, chefs, child-care specialists, security guards...and on and on. The idea is...those who have more, are to share with those who have less. Here's our chance to give back something to the world, and help in some way build peace through education.
        We leave on Monday for Africa and from all the reports - it's going to be awesome. My friend Connie, who has been training me, said the people of Accra will come to church 15 minutes early (Early? People do that?) because they like to sing. They sing loud...and long...every verse of every hymn. I asked if they needed a piano, and Connie said, "Why? They don't really need it, because everyone sings to full capacity and would drown out the piano anyway." I can't wait to hear this.
       Another impressive thing about the people of Accra is that when they pray, Connie said you almost want to open your eyes to check where you are, because you'd swear you're already in heaven. She said they are so sincere and humble...offering thanks for one more day to be alive and praise God.
       I met another couple today who will be our new best friends there: the Kleins. I liked her immediately because she said they brought games, too. They will get to Ghana a week after we do and we've already made arrangements to get together. I suspect we will learn together about cidi's (the money) and how to wash our vegetables in 2 tablespoons of Chlorox, and taking our malaria pills every night.
    Pictured, Martha from Salt Lake (a missionary going with her husband to Mongolia - learning Mongolese) and Florence, our trainer. Florence has served with her husband in Mexico and Central America several times, and now she volunteers to teach people like me about PEF. She is from So.Calif. and has one more year to serve.

    2nd picture. John Woodward - our other trainer, retired lawyer from Utah - who has served with his wife in Ghana twice.

    3rd picture. David, and our trainer Mishael. He has his Master's in International Information Systems and a product himself of the PEF. He's a wizard - and so cute! Nothing rattles him. and he is so patient. He's also an extra in church movies -the latest one being about Christ in Jerusalem.
   Not shown: Davidson, another of our teachers on the computer. Davidson is from Brazil and an intern at the Church Offices, And - another recipient of the PEF. He's another computer wizard who can apparently do and fix anything. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pictures from Provo

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This is a familiar mountain to anyone who went to school at BYU. On Tuesday, the weather was beautiful and warm, and I got a couple of great photos of the changing leaves - the fall is such a wonder.

We have spent the week with these wonderful people having training, discussions, and lots of laughs. (Heids, Shefflers, Jordan - fearless teacher, Wiggs, and Hirchi's) Our destinations include such far-flung places as Ghana, California, India, and New Zealand. We started on Monday as strangers and parted on Friday as family.

An early winter storm moved in on Wednesday and covered the mountains with snow. The temperature dropped to the 40's, which was terrible for us; we have wardrobes for Africa! However, the view from Squaw Peak was stunning.

The Mission Training Center has some fabulous photographs of past missionary experiences lining the halls. They range from one with missionaries riding their bikes down a village road, to group photos in the Fiji Islands.There are maybe 100 such photos, and  David found this one of our son, Devin, who served in the Germany Frankfurt Mission in 1999. We still don't know who submitted this, but it was such a delight to see it!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

We've started...

We are now two days into our eighteen-month mission...time flies. I just barely started a blog, and I suspect I'll get more creative as time goes on, but for now, the simple look is the best I can manage.
I was a bit apprehensive about checking into the Mission Training Center on Monday, but the attitude here is welcoming, accepting, and senior missionaries are cut a great deal of slack. After our classes, we come and go as we please, and the situation as been made most amenable by our lodgings: a Marriott. Yes, I can do this mission-thing.
We have loved meeting couples like ourselves who are retired, but who have wanted a chance to still contribute in some meaningful way. We have met people from various states and Canada -and they are on their way to Fiji, Tahiti, South Africa, Sierra Leon, Mexico, Ireland/Scotland, England, Spain, the Czech Republic, Albania.. to name just some. It was a delight when we were in the cafeteria the first day and I heard, "Sister Heid!" from a former TVHS student. He's heading for St. Louis, Mo. We also saw Brett Jones from Fallbrook, and Paul Harker who used to visit in Fallbrook. Every time we meet someone new, we find there is some connection by knowing a friend of a friend type thing. It really is a small world -- at this age.
We found out today more about malaria from the MTC doctor. He has traveled all over the world himself and his current job is to take care of/and prepare the young and the old missionaries. The church will be supplying us with a daily medication to help prevent the disease, but the best prevention is "don't get bitten." We have been inoculated against just about anything I've ever heard of, and some things I haven't heard of, and we also found out we need 2 more shots for hepatitis and a flu shot. All this in the name of love.