Sunday, May 30, 2010

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tomorrow is Dominican Mother’s day. I suspect Dominican honor their mothers in exactly the same way we do in the US and everyone else in the world. We buy our mothers gifts, we cook them meals or take them to dinner, we have family gatherings, and we buy them flowers, greeting cards and candy/chocolates, etc.

Today during our regular shopping at Price Smart and Jumbo, both stores where packed with last minute Mother’s Day shoppers. We saw appliance after appliance leave the stores; lots of big ones like refrigerators and washing machines. We saw more dads with kids doing the shopping than we’ve seen all year.

For the second week in a row the “Aduana” (Customs Office) was crammed full of packages. They were swamped with packages from out of the country to be picked up. When I asked why there were so many packages they told me the answer in two words, “Mother’s Day”. I asked if the Christmas shipping season was bigger and the Customs agent said no, Mother’s Day is their busiest time of the year at the Customs package pickup office.

This afternoon we went back to “Plaza Central”, the same mall we went to last Saturday. We left Hna. Johnson’s wedding ring at “Capriles Joyero” to get an estimate for a new replacement diamond. Since tomorrow is Dominican Mother’s Day, she got to choose what she wanted. She decided not to replace the diamond but for the same price buy a new ring to go with her wedding band. It’s beautiful and she likes it a lot. The best thing she likes about the new ring is that it doesn’t stick up high and it won’t snag on fabric, etc. Happy Mother’s Day Hna. Johnson.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Today was my regular day to wait in line at the only Citi Bank in Santo Domingo and wait for all of the mission’s rent checks. Normally it’s no fun to wait in line for an hour but today the East Mission office Elder, Elder Clayton, was there with Elder Whitaker. I got to have a very nice long visit with Elder Whitaker while the office Elder was being helped at the teller window.

Both of the missions had about 20 checks to pick up so I can’t really explain why it took me about an hour to get my checks but it took the East Mission much longer. When I arrived at the bank I was at the back of the line and Elder Clayton was already at the teller window being helped. When I left he was still sorting out his checks. It is amazing to me how inefficient this new IMOS system of check writing is. In the old days before IMOS we could write our own checks in the Mission office; now we waist hours of productive time just waiting in line.

This afternoon we met up with Elder and Hna. Jones, Area Exec. Sec. & Asst. Exec. Secretary. The Jones bought a beautiful nylon hammock for Pres. & Hna. Almonte as a thank you gift for allowing us to use their cabin during the 3rd week of April. All five couples chipped in the pay for the hammock and we all signed a personalized “Thank You” card. The Almonte’s were delighted with the gift.

After we gave the Almonte’s the gift Pres. Almonte asked Hna. Jones if she would play something for us on the piano. She played 5 or 6 of his favorites starting with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Pres. Almonte was completely spellbound by the beautiful music. Pres. Almonte’s Mission Home piano almost never gets used. Hna. Ramona Jones is an accomplished piano player. The rest of us were enthralled by her beautiful hymns on the piano too.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Today was busy in the office as was yesterday and the day before. Every last week of the month there is a lot to do to prepare for the coming month. Hna. Johnson has been very busy paying bills, prepping IMOS to pay Dueños, loading “Apoyos” (support money) in missionary’s accounts and doing reimbursements. Her work load is complicated by the number of phone calls she gets at this time of the month from missionaries that have run out of money asking her when next month’s support money will be in their credit cards. They all know it isn’t supposed to hit their bank accounts until the first day of the month but they always have the hope it will show up sooner.

Today I went the “Edesur” (The Dominican Republic’s government owned electric utility) for the second time in two days. Yesterday I had to wait in line for an hour to pay the mission’s electric bill. Today I was back at their office because of a problem with the Azua office’s electric bill. My wait in line this time was only 50 minutes.

This afternoon I called the Mission Department in Salt Lake on behalf of President Almonte. I asked them to start to plan on a replacement for Hna. Johnson and I. We will be leaving the mission in January and our replacement needs to arrive in the mission sometime in November or December. The Brethren need to call our replacement some time before July.

When Hna. Johnson and I first arrived I learned something interesting about replacement office couples. The Mission Department doesn’t automatically schedule replacements when it is time for the old couple to go home. The Mission President must request a couple be sent. I was surprised to find out that the reason they don’t do this automatically is that most Mission President’s recruit a senior couple from their home ward or stake, their family or their friends. Soooo…. If anyone out there is planning a mission soon….. I know a mission office that could use you. It’s in the best mission in the world and the position will be available for you and your spouse in January.

When I called the Mission Department in SLC I talked to Sue Mendoza on the phone. It turns out that her grandson is Elder James Kieley who is serving here in the Altagracia Area of the Las Palmas Zone. She was delighted to get to hear about her grandson.

Elder Kieley is from Chandler, AZ.; I got to talk to him at the Multi-Zone Mission Conference last Thursday. He is has been in the mission since last October and is full of enthusiasm. He is a very good missionary. Recently I discovered something that Elder Kieley has been trying to keep secret. He is a computer genius! I’ve already used his expertise trying to solve our office computer problems. Before I leave the mission, I think Elder Kieley will be my best friend.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Today was a busy day. I spent the better part of the day on “Dilegencias” (Errands) for the mission. One of my stops was at the “Ferreteria Americana” (Americana Hardware Store). “Ferreteria Americana” is a very large hardware store. It has everything a handyman could possibly want. It is a stark contrast to most hardware stores in the DR. The typical corner hardware store here is a little “Mom & Pop” type hardware store on just about every street corner all over the capital. They are usually about the size of a two car garage and only carry the bare essentials for a fellow to make simple repairs or buy handyman supplies .

“Ferreteria Americana” is the Home Depot or Lowe’s of the DR. It has everything, all laid out in nice isles full of “do-it-yourself” and home repair stuff. I thought the “Ferreteria Americana” was perfect until today. Today I had to return a CFL light bulb I bought yesterday. When I screwed it in it didn’t work so I took it back to get a replacement. Simple, right?.... NO. I was at the store an hour before I finally left with the replacement. The bulb went through the hands of at least 6 different people all over the store before I could start the warranty paperwork! Yes, warranty paperwork for a light bulb. The experience really made me appreciate the USA and real customer service. Home Depot and Lowe’s are not perfect by any means but after today’s experience I have developed a new appreciation for them.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This morning Hna. Johnson had a very important meeting in the office. Hna. Dayanara from “Centro de Servicio” came to train and instruct her and President Almonte on coding mission payments. She is still learning her job. It seems that every day she learns something new. This time the payments that had been coded incorrectly will only take her a few days to fix. That’s because Hna. Dayanara says she only has to go back to January first. It’s too late to fix 2009.

This morning the Barahona Zone (10 Elders) all attended the Temple with Pres. & Hna. Almonte. Hna. Johnson was busy at the office with her training so I went to the Temple early to pull and prepare all of the missionary’s Temple clothes. When I finished I went over to the Temple store and purchased a ton of items for missionaries. While I was there I ran into one of our adopted sons, Elder Morillo. He just happened to be at the Temple store making purchases too. He has been released from the mission for two months now. It was good to see him again.

Back in the mission office Elder Colby and his companion Elder Rodriguez came in to work and input “Registros de Bautismos” (Baptismal records) from lasts week. Elder Colby got to show off the cast on his leg. Yesterday during a p-day game of “Capture the flag” with his zone he twisted his ankle. At the doctor’s office x-rays were taken and no bones were broken. But as a precaution the doctor decided to put a cast on his foot and leg for 3 weeks. That way the sprain can heal and there is little chance of reinjuring it. Elder Colby hasn’t let the sprained ankle slow him down, he still put in a full day of work on the office computer.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Today is P-day for the Elders so Elder Keys brought us his “Larimar” collection. He has some beautiful pieces. While he was serving in Barahona he was able to buy the stones very inexpensively. Hna. Johnson and I hope to go back to Barahona and buy some more for ourselves and maybe even take the tour of the mine.

“Larimar” is a very rare gem stone found only in the mountains near Barahona. The mineral deposit was discovered by a Peace Corp worker in 1974. He named the stone for his daughter Larissa and the Spanish word for sea, so the stone is now known as “Larimar”.

The reason for the beautiful blue color of the stone is also the reason it is so rare. Most blue stones like turquoise are blue because they contain copper. Larimar has no copper, its beautiful rich blue color come from the element Cobalt. This rare blue stone is found nowhere else in the world.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

In priesthood meeting today the lesson was on the duties of a Deacon. Normally the Aaronic priesthood and the Elders have separate classes but since today’s lesson applies to the Elders as well they kept everyone together in the same class. There are many, many men in the branch that are Elders that are recent converts and need the instruction on the duties of the Aaronic priesthood. The lesson was taught by Hno. Pierson Joseph and he did a very job teaching.

Again tonight we got to talk to the family on the “Webcam”. We got to talk to Nathan & Valerie, our granddaughter Ella, “Princess Ella” celebrated her 1st birthday today. Also there was Wendy & Jacob and Grandma & Grandpa Burk. Hna. Johnson ordered a doll for Ella’s birthday party, she loved it. Even though she is only one year old she recognized it as hers to play with. The white saddle loafer shoes it was really caught her fantasy. She carried the doll all around upside down by its shoes for the rest of the day!

Today was the dedication of the Gila Valley Temple in Arizona. All wards in Arizona canceled their regular block of meetings so the dedication of the Temple could be telecast into every stake center in the state. We talked to Jared & Tere on the webcam early in the morning and they were just getting ready to go to the dedication. All of our other families we talked to also went to the dedication. They all loved it. For some like our son Jared and his 3 sons, it was the first time they’ve ever attended a Temple dedication.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Among other things we did a lot of errands today. One of our goals today was to find a jeweler that could fix Hna. Johnson’s two rings. Yesterday Hna. Almonte told us the name of a jeweler that is very close to our apartment. We stopped there first but they don’t do repairs so they sent us to a jeweler at “Plaza Central” (a very large shopping mall) in downtown Santo Domingo called “Capriles Joyero”. After some searching we found the jeweler and they repaired Hna. Johnson’s Mother’s Ring.

Hna. Johnson has not been able to wear her Mother’s Ring for the past several months because the band has been broken. The jeweler soldered it back together and straightened the band while we waited. It looks great now.

On April 24th Hna. Johnson lost the largest diamond out of her wedding ring set. She has been really sad about the loss. Our hope is that we can get the stone replaced but until then she asked the jeweler to unsolder the wedding band from the diamond ring band. We were pleasantly surprised when they told us that they could do it while we waited. Hna. Johnson is very happy to be able to wear her wedding band and her Mother’s Ring again.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

Today we received word that Elder Pickett did not have “Dengue Fever” after all. It turned out to be food poisoning, something he ate. He was treated, rehydrated with an IV and released from the hospital. This was very good news. “Dengue Fever” is very bad.

“Dengue” is the same thing Elder Lewis had last summer (See August 19, 2009). “Dengue” is a disease carried by mosquitoes. There are 4 or 5 different variations, each one progressively worse. The worst form can cause death. The local name for the disease is “Break Bone Fever”. They call it that because the fever is so bad it feels like your bones are breaking! To my knowledge there have only been two missionary that have had it since we’ve been here in the Dominican Republic. The Caribbean Area doctor says there are dozens of cases all over the Caribbean every year.

For the third day in a row we had a Multi-Zone conference with Pres. Almonte. This time it as held in Azua, in the South. All of the Elders in the Zones of Azua, Barahona, San Juan and Neyba; totaling 62 Elders were there. The AP’s from the capital came too and since the conference was in the “South” they brought all of the mail and supplies with them. That meant the Hna. Johnson I were free to ride with President and Hna. Almonte to the conference. We really enjoyed the ride with them the chance to visit.

Hna. Johnson did her training again just like yesterday and Wednesday. As before Elder Bates translated again. Hna. Johnson noted after the conference was over that all three her conference talks have been a little different. Not only hers but the AP’s talks and the messages by President Almonte were all a little different. She points out the spirit guided her and she recognized the need for changes as she spoke. The Lord had specific things for her to say to specific individuals in attendance. The Lord is in charge, this is his work and he inspires his servants as they lead and teach. All three days of conferences have been spiritual feasts.

Hna. Johnson also pointed out again how fortunate we are to be in the positions we are in and have the duties we have here in the Santo Domingo West Mission. To be called as the “Mission Office Couple” has been a real blessing. There are hundreds of other senior couples serving throughout the Caribbean but only a few get to be in the mission offices. We are so blessed to get to work with the missionaries every day. We get to know them individually, feel their spirits, enjoy their successes and help them through their trails. Hna. Johnson and I recognize that we are so blessed and fortunate to be in this calling, at this time and in this place. This is truly another one of “The Lord’s Tender Mercies”. We love our mission.
Thursday, May 20, 2010

Again this morning we were off to another Multi-Zone conference in the capital. It was just about the same as the one yesterday. This time Elder Keys conducted. Pres. & Hna. Almonte spoke as did both AP’s, Elder Bates & Elder Keys. Hna. Johnson gave her 20 minute talk on missionary finances again. This time Elder Bates translated for her. Elder Conway did a very good job yesterday but Elder Bates did even better today. He really knows his Spanish.

The four Zones that attended today’s conference were Los Alcarrizos, Las Caobas, Las Palmas and San Gerónimo, a total of 66 Elders and Sisters. There were two Elders that were not able to be at the conference. Elder Pickett was admitted into the hospital yesterday. They think he may have “Dengue” fever. This is a very bad disease. He is not doing well at all, our prayers are with him.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Last night and early this morning it rained very hard. I estimate that the rain lasted at least 12 straight hours. Storms have been rolling over the island very regularly now. Historically May is the wettest month of the year in the Dominican Republic. So far May his lived up to expectations. All of the grass in the park is lush and green again. The trees that last month were leafless are now all leafed out and many are covered in beautiful blossoms. The island really needed the rain. Everything is looking beautiful again.

This morning started off with a Multi-Zone Conference that included half the missionaries in the capital. Normally Hna. Johnson and I do not go to these but this time we were given a special invitation by Pres. Almonte to attend. Hna. Johnson was asked to conduct training on missionary finances, their mission support money credit card and reimbursements. Hna. Johnson gave the training and Elder Conway translated for her. They both did a very good job.

Every “Translado” (Transfer day) Hna. Johnson and I train all of the new arriving missionaries on these very same subjects. Unfortunately it is just a brief overview and only lasts about 5 minutes. Today at the Multi Zone Conference Hna. had 20 minutes to go into detail and refresh everyone’s memory about the proper use of these “Sacred Funds” the missionaries are given.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

This morning at 9:00am Hna. Johnson and I were off to the Temple. The Bani Zone was there to attend the 10:00am session. Each time a large group of missionaries attend the Temple their clothes need to be prepared and set out for them. While Hna. Johnson was inside the Temple preparing their clothes, I was at the “Tienda del Templo” (Temple store also known as Distribution Center) filling orders and buying supplies for missionaries all over the mission.

Among other things on my list of thing to buy at the “Tienda del Templo” I bought a lot of garments for Elders. A couple of months ago the price for garments was cut in half and we all thought it was just a short term special. But soon we found out the low price was permanent. Now the problem is the supply. The “Tienda” is out of many sizes and when new stock arrives it is only in small amounts. Each week I go to the “Tienda” I always hope there will be a better inventory to choose from. Many Elders have been waiting months for their orders to be filled.

Back in the office Hna. Johnson was hard at work as usual. Today she received the papers for missionaries that won’t arrive in our mission until October. October seems such a long way off but it’s only four and a half months away. Being as busy as we are; the time is really flying by.

For the last couple of days I’ve been working on my story of our sweet Hna. Mecho that passed away a week ago today. Back in March Hna. Almonte asked me to submit an article to the LIAHONA about her. I wrote the story about her desire to attend the Temple and how after 8 years she finally realized her goal. March 7th I submitted it along with several pictures. Now I’ve updated the piece to include the story of her “Translado” last Tuesday to serve as a missionary in the spirit world. Now I’m working on the translation in Spanish so Hna. Almonte can read it.

Translating is really difficult. Thank goodness for the internet and modern translation programs. But those programs can only do so much and they make a lot of mistakes. It gives me a good starting point but a lot of revision is necessary so the story makes sense in Spanish. I’ve also asked Elder Bates and Elder Conway to help me with the translation. They are both very good at translating; they have great Spanish speaking skills.
Monday, May 17, 2010

It was another typical Monday for us in the mission office. However it wasn’t a typical Monday for the Elders in the office or in the whole mission. President Almonte declared that today was going to be “apartment cleaning day”. So missionaries all of the missionaries in the mission were told not to plan District or Zone activities or meetings. Everyone was to stay home and clean their apartments.

Hna. Johnson spent the better part of the morning entering a big stack of “Reimbulsos” (Reimbursements) from the missionaries all over the mission. She also did other entries in IMOS, etc. But then came a big surprise from the Office Elder cleaning their apartment on the ground floor. They found a stack of mail, legal documents and “Reimbulsos” that had been misplaced. One of the documents was a signed rental contract on our rental house in El Cercado. It’s been missing for months. Some of the Reimbulsos dated back to February! It’s a good thing that President Almonte declared this as “Apartment cleaning day” or these important papers would have gone undiscovered for months longer or even years.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Today is “General Election Day” in the Dominican Republic. The Area Presidency sent out a notice to all Ward & Branches in the country to only hold Sacrament meeting today. All other meetings of the church are canceled today. At the start of Sacrament meeting today in Los Arroyos Branch there were only 36 present. Normally our attendance is between 75 and 100.

The National Elections are a very big and important event for Dominicans. Most businesses that would normally be open on Sunday are closed. Most residents vote early and without difficulty. But the polling places around the nation become clogged with people as they just hang out in the street and party.

President Almonte has told all of the missionaries not to make appointments or proselyte after 6:00pm today. It is not only unproductive, it can be dangerous. It’s a good idea to just stay off of the streets today.

So… What a great day to have the Office Elders over for Sunday afternoon dinner! Early last week Hna. Johnson invited all 6 office Elders over for dinner. We didn’t eat until after 2:30 so the AP’s were pretty much finished gathering their phone reports from all of the Zone leaders.

Hna. Johnson asked the Elders what they would like to eat. Since she asked in English the response came from the 4 Americans, “American food!” So we had a similar meal to the one we had on Dominican Labor day, May first. Hna. Johnson served roast, mashed potatoes & gravy, corn on the cob, green beans, dinner rolls and canned peaches. For dessert we had vanilla ice cream on brownies with chocolate syrup. Hna. Johnson is a great cook and she loves to feed “her sons”. It was “Mmmm Goood!”

An interesting thing happened during and after the meal. My laptop computer was in the dining room and after 5 minutes the “Screen Saver” started its automatic random slide show of all the pictures I’ve take since arriving in the DR 10 months ago. Each picture stayed on the screen for 3 seconds and became a favorite topic of discussion among the Elders. The Elders were either in the picture or they knew the Elders and the events that were. It was a lot of fun discussing the slide show during our meal.
Saturday, May 15, 2010

Today was our P-day (Preparation Day). Hna. Johnson and I didn’t start getting a p-day until last March 6th. Before that we were traveling to Neyba and Duvergé every weekend so we had no time for a p-day. But then came our change of assignment so every p-day since March we’ve gone someplace new and we’ve done something fun and different. Well, today for the first time since March we did nothing new. But that isn’t to say today wasn’t a very good p-day; it was a very good and productive p-day. We did the usual things like cleaned our apartment, we did our laundry and went shopping. But more important we had to stay home until the Air Conditioning installer finished the installation of an air conditioning unit in our apartment. Yahoo!

We have always had a window air conditioning unit in our bedroom but not in the rest of our apartment. Since we arrived in the DR 10 months ago the heat in our apartment has been stifling. Cooking on the stove or using the oven created so much heat it was oppressive. To make the kitchen and dining room tolerable in the Caribbean sweltering heat we’ve always used two portable fans running full blast. Back in January Nieves Henriquez, our Dueño, asked us if we would like AC in the whole apartment… Well, yes we would! It has taken a few months but today the AC installer finished his work at about 1:00pm and it’s wonderful. We have air conditioning.

The other thing we did today was go to the Santo Domingo Temple and attend a session. We were able to catch the final session of the day at 5:00pm. Saturday is usually a very busy day at the Temple. The session we attended today was about 30% full which was very good attendance since tomorrow is the Dominican Republic’s national Election Day. Today the Temple wasn’t as busy as usual because almost all Dominicans stay off the streets all weekend including not attending the temple.
Friday, May 14, 2010

I wasted a lot of time at our apartment waiting for the AC installer to return and finish the job. He never did show up all day. However I did get of a lot of my projects done on my lap top. I finally did raise the installer on his cell phone and he gave me a long list of excuses. Well, maybe he will finish the job tomorrow but I’m not very confident.

I did make it to my regular Friday “Diligencias” (Errands) to Centro de Servicio and Citi Bank in a mid-day down pore. I got to talk to several people in the Area offices. I picked up 12 cases of Book of Mormons for the office Elders to distribute. I picked up a check at Citi Bank to pay our “Orange” bill. All in all today was pretty successful.