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January 20-26 Clear Sailing at Last (To the River)

 
A Picture For Last Week's Posting - "Whopper King" (Burger
King Has Units in Colombia and They are Called Burger King)
 
Monday. There is a saying here, "dar la papaya", which means to give someone a reason to steal or take something. Using your cell phone while walking down the street would qualify as doing something which would "dar la papaya" to a would-be thief. "Dar la papaya" literally means, "give a papaya". Mike also had another one used on him this morning. He was talking with one of the volunteers about doing something in a different way in the future, and then asked if the person understood and was in agreement\onboard. The person said they were “enchufado”, which literally means “plugged in”, like an extension cord.
 
Lots of activity at the office this Tuesday as the Career Workshop took place in the "Sala de Capacitacion" (teaching room). Fifteen individuals between the ages of 18 and 60 participated. A sister from a nearby ward volunteered to teach the workshop. She is a psychologist by profession and the students seemed very engaged, because we heard loud applause coming from the room several times. As the semester is about to begin for many universities, the phones were ringing off the hook all day and the emails were flying fast and furious from students waiting to hear if their loans had been approved and\or their tuition checks were available. The entire application and disbursement process for five countries has been moved to offices in Peru and they are feeling the effects of what each institute previously dealt with. The institutes, which are part of the Church Education System, have been involved in administering the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) from the very beginning in 2002. Now, our office will take the role of meeting with students to help them make an educational plan. Those electing to use PEF funds are required to take a "Planning for Success" workshop, which we will now teach. We or members of our staff plan to meet with each new participant to make sure they understand the program. Some students may decide to use government-sponsored programs and other scholarship opportunities instead. Jonathan, who has been in the office everyday for the past week or so, came to the office this afternoon so excited. He got a job! This university graduate with a degree in psychology got hired by an AT&T call center. He speaks English quite well and is excited to be working, even if the pay is $2/hour (more if he sells a certain number of service contracts). He said the final interview was online and that he enjoyed talking with a very nice woman (in the U.S.). He told her about his mission, the church, and family home evening. He is the sweetest guy. He wants to begin the Church's addiction recovery program here in Colombia and asked for help in connecting with social services. He talked with someone in the area offices in Peru who arranged a meeting with the woman in charge of the Social Services program in Colombia. They are meeting tonight and we are very excited for him! We left work early to attend the Bogota Temple, where we did some family names in initiatory. As if "Anderton" wasn't hard enough for Latin lips to pronounce, some of our family names simply stymied them (such as Francis Brian Fetheringham). It was payback for us having to pronounce Antequero Anzoategui and Restropo Bohorquez.
 
Workshop Group
 
It’a Wednesday, and the internet\phone guys are STILL working on the lines. The painters started on the office exterior today and outside the front door, the ground is covered with super-sized scraped-off paint chips. The Career Workshop Part 2 took place inside with all participants in attendance for the second day and each dressed very nicely in professional attire. They practiced going to an interview. Almost all were on time, which is a big tribute to yesterday's teaching. Our weekly staff devotional/staff meeting began at 9:00 a.m. and lasted until 11:00 a.m. Mike did a great job of laying out the vision of where we are going with the program and everyone seems very excited to have direction. If we do nothing more than get this office organized, cleaned thoroughly, all of the nooks and crannies devoid of accumulated paperwork and junk, and the program headed in the right direction, we will feel very satisfied. We hope another couple can step right in when we leave and carry on what everyone has worked hard to put in place.
 
Painters Hard at Work

Thursday's highlight involved a mother and her adult daughter who came into the center asking if they could learn about the church that runs this office. They have been inspired by the current activity and feel that any church who desires to help people help themselves is one they wish to investigate. The love in this place just oozes out the front gate and over the walls:).

Hermana Amaya

Elder Amaya

Ferney

I'm still laughing after using Google Translate on Friday to understand one of the comments on a student's PEF account. The Colombian hermana who called the student recorded something in her notes about not being able to speak with either the student or his contacts (the "papa y pariente" - father and relative), then another sentence followed which I didn't quite get. I wanted to understand the entire comment, so I copied and pasted it into Google Translate, which translated the above sentence as "I was not able to make contact with the potato or the relative." HA! No wonder they couldn't make contact - potatoes don't answer the phone! I learned the word "papá", meaning father, needs an accent mark over the last "á" - otherwise it means potato! So funny! The hermana that recorded the notes had a good laugh at that and said she had better start using her accent marks! One thing that I was NOT laughing about today was "the smell". Our office is the only room at the CAS with it's own bathroom. Ever since we arrived, the toilet hasn't flushed very well. When the flush button on the top of the tank is pushed, the bowl filled up to the rim with water, then the water slowly descended to its normal level over several minutes. Edgar said he had this new toilet installed a couple of years ago, but it hasn't worked well for a long time. We put "fix the toilet" on our office renovation punch list, and today they removed the toilet to see what was causing the problem. First of all, in most Latin American countries you cannot put toilet paper in the toilet. The "tubes" just can't handle it. You must put the used TP into a little, plastic-lined basket that is always found next to the toilet. Most assuredly, some "gringos" hadn't been instructed properly in toilet paper disposal, so the "tubes" were probably plugged up. With the toilet off and the "tubes" inside the toilet unplugged, the workers removed a large, cement covering in the driveway to expose the hole in the ground where the bathroom's two "tubes" (4" PVC-type pipes) deposited their contents after exiting the building. One tube is for gray water from the sink and the other tube is for the toilet contents. To make sure the tubes were free and clear, the workers poured a bucket of water down the bathroom’s now-exposed hole. Immediately, a big problem was discovered, so they called us outside to see. Instead of water running out the toilet tube, the water just seeped out. Evidently, when the driveway was poured last year, someone slopped cement into the hole and plugged the end of the toilet tube almost completely. The interesting thing Mike and I observed, though, was that both of the tubes dumped directly into the hole and were unconnected to a larger diameter pipe which sat about a foot and 1/2 away. Hmmm. After the workers removed the chunks of cement blocking the end of the toilet tube, we came out to take another look. Trying to understand exactly how the whole system worked, we were a little shocked to see that it worked exactly how it looked. In plain language, when the toilet is flushed or the sink drained, the "contents" flow out of the tubes, across the dirt in the bottom of the hole, then into the bigger pipe (hopefully). During heavy rains when the water backs up, a valve in the larger pipe prevents the contents from backing up into the toilet. (Good to know.) We asked where the contents that flow out the pipe go and they replied non-chalantly, "to the river." I asked if it was treated with chemicals or anything before it was dumped into the river and the answer was negative. Mike asked if they ever swim in the river and they just laughed - apparently not. Then he asked, "Where exactly does the river go?" All we got were blank looks. The smell inside our office was pretty ripe by now, but the cleaning lady came through with a can of "Glade" giving us a breath of "Fresh Aire". The toilet was soon replaced (they cement the thing right to the floor with no wax rings in sight) so it should be good to go on Monday. The painters have been busy prepping all week. The outside overhang has been scraped and the roof tarred. Inside, every screw and nail (many painted over during the last job) have been removed and mudded over. Mike is inspecting and supervising the work, so they are getting a vision of what a job well done looks like. He demonstrated how to use a putty knife to remove paint slopped over the edges of the tile (taping does not appear to be standard practice). The dark-colored chips in the white floor tiles are being repaired and water-marked and dirty ceiling tiles are being cleaned. Three broken, paper-towel dispensers are being changed out for new ones and three non-working soap dispensers are being removed in favor of pump-style bottles of hand soap next to each sink. Colombia didn't realize a couple of "particular" missionaries were coming their way! My self-appointed job each morning is to pick up the trash out in front of the office before anyone arrives. I get lots of stares from people walking by, as trash on the streets is a part of everyday life and I think people become oblivious to it. The month is coming to a close and our team of missionaries\volunteers has whittled down the 400+ calls on our “high-priority” list (resolving problems of all sorts with PEF loans) to about 50. We have recruited any young person who walks through the door seeking a job to volunteer a few hours in the center while they look. We scored one volunteer last week and one this week. Both young people are computer savvy and provide a welcome addition of technology smarts to help the senior missionaries (I refuse to include Mike and I in that description, though we are seniors:) These returned missionaries are fearless about tackling computer glitches, talking with people in person, or dealing with others on the phone. They add spark to the office. It's like a beehive of activity now with the merger of the PEF program and the employment center into one Self-Reliance Center (CAS or Centro de Autosuficiencia). We want that feeling to continue so individuals seeking to improve their economic situation can feel the energy of hope swirling around them. We share with people God's desire to bless them both spiritually AND temporally. We love the work we do and are so glad to be here, helping in whatever way we can. Each small effort is appreciated and we love these people.

The Great Unplugging

Cement Removed

Sleeping in until 8:00 a.m. on Saturday was delicious! Mike and I both sat in bed with our computers after breakfast and worked on tasks - me with my little iPad and he with his HP laptop. The battery in his computer keeps overheating, which causes the computer to shut down (he is going to have it cleaned this week). To alleviate the problem, he places the long, narrow drawer from our sofa table on his lap and places the computer inside. Since the laptop is an inch wider than the drawer, front to back, it sits at a slant, providing a little air pocket underneath. Our floor fan is then directed towards the drawer, which keeps the battery cooler. It seems to work and we are hoping the poor HP will last until the end of the mission. We finished up about noon, then went for a walk. I dropped two jackets off at a tailor shop so they can shorten the sleeves. I've been tucking them up since we came and decided to finally get them shortened properly while it can be done for $6.00 apiece. We enjoyed a long, long walk again, before arriving home in time to get cleaned up for a 6:00 p.m. baptismal service at our ward building. We received a phone call from the full-time missionaries at 5:00 p.m. asking Mike if he would speak at the baptism of Juan Carlos and Edwin. Juan Carlos, a friendly, outgoing gentleman of about 45 years of age, walks haltingly with crutches as the result of a back injury. He seemed so happy. Edwin's wife is a member and they have a beautiful three-year-old daughter. He looks like he's about 16, but is probably in his early 20's. A large group of friends, family, and ward members attended. When it was time for Edwin to enter the font, they discovered that the water was way too hot, so we watched some church videos while cold water was added. When Edwin came up out of the water after his baptism, he gave us all the biggest grin accompanied by a thumbs up sign. His little daughter clapped her hands in joy. It was so sweet. A chair was placed in the font for Juan Carlos' baptism and he sat sideways on it so the missionary could lean him back to be buried in the water. As Juan Carlos leaned back, his legs began to rise, but his entire body was under the water for a split second. Mike, one of the witnesses, deemed it "efficaz" (efficacious). We didn't stay for the refreshments afterwards, instead choosing to stop at the Italian restaurant down the street. I ordered chicken lasagna and Mike ordered fettuccine. My lasagna came in a bowl and looked/tasted like glorified mac and cheese with thick noodles and chicken pieces. It tasted good, but it wasn't like any lasagna I've ever eaten. Not a single red anything was in sight - no tomatoes, no tomato sauce, and no spices. Mike's fettuccine was a big bowl full of egg noodles with a little butter and a few shakes of green herbs. My salad was great though! Lots of veggies and crisp lettuce.

Incredible KR

Ouch!

Haircut Time

Juan Carlos & Edwin

It was another taxi-ride Sunday, off to Barrio Tierralinda to meet the leaders. Within one minute of arriving, the bishop asked if I would share my testimony during the meeting. It's one of the hazards of visiting different wards each week. I nervously walked up to the podium and when I looked down, I saw the four sisters who shepherded me in the temple last week. Looking at their sweet faces and knowing that they recognized me, a calm feeling immediately came over me. Mike said my Spanish is getting better every day. The 15 stakes on our side (the mountain side) of Colombia just finished two sessions of their first-ever ESJ (their version of Especially For Youth) and all the youth in the ward who attended shared their thoughts and feelings about the event for the remainder of the meeting. One young man reminded us so much of our 12-year-old grandson, Will. He shared, "We are the future leaders of the church and we need to strengthen ourselves to do this great work. We need to strengthen our testimonies of Christ, make good decisions, and walk in the correct way. This week was very edifying and I felt the spirit many times. It was a very significant event for me." Two sessions of about five hundred youth each, ages 14-18, gathered together for a week of spiritual nourishment, fun and togetherness. I spoke with the couple who headed the entire event, asking them if people from the BYU helped them put it on. They said that BYU sent a few manuals, but they learned the most from watching hundreds of youtube videos. The counselors for the week were the young adults in the stakes (18-30 years) and unlike EFY, all of them volunteered their time to do it. A young man in our ward couldn't stop talking about how great it was to know there were so many members of the church his own age. After sacrament meeting, we met with the bishop and asked how we could be of service to him. He had two people with employment needs and he is excited to work with us and will call a self-reliance specialist for his ward. He also invited us to join he and his family for dinner the next time we visit:) When Mike and I got home, I warmed up the dinner I had prepared the day before. As Mike started on his potatoes, he went to the fridge and came back with the pouch of "salsa de tomate" (tomato sauce). "Why are you putting tomato sauce on your potatoes," I asked? "It's not tomato sauce. It's ketchup," he replied, pointing to the word, Ketchup, in small letters underneath the words, "Salsa de Tomate." No wonder last week's taco soup tasted so weird! I put two cups of Colombian ketchup in it instead of two cups of tomato sauce! I spent the evening looking at sites for our post-mission visit to Amazona (as they call it). While scouting "Trip Advisor", I began having second thoughts, as I read the following two reviews about one company's excursions. "During our night canoeing, we did not see any caymans, but we had a huge anaconda swimming right under our boat - we could touch it, but we were wary of the pirañas." And, "The best attraction was the canoe ride on the lake. In the marshy corner of the lake, our guide told of seeing an anaconda. Going inside the marshland can be life threatening, as tigers or snakes can come in the boat." YIKES! I'm terrified of snakes….and a tiger? Mike commented that they were just trying to juice up the ad, there are no tigers in Brazil. Maybe they meant jaguars. Or maybe trigrinas.

The KR-Killer Tigrina - Size of a House Cat
Interesting tidbit to end with - a women whose body has obviously been "enhanced" in any is referred to as "bien operada" - meaning, she has been operated on very well. It's interesting what subjects come up in general conversation:)

Chao, chao!

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