Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our First Christmas...

The Christmas Eve Gingerbread House
This past week was a busy one but oh so rewarding.  Both of us were a little wary of spending this Christmas week away from family and friends but with the schedule we kept, we didn't have a lot of time to think about it.  However, on Saturday morning and Monday morning [here], we did really enjoy hearing from four of our children and their families.  Everyone seemed to have a great time and all were healthy...all except Randy!  He has been battling an awful cold/upper respiratory infection but seems to be on the mend.

The stage area with the stockings displayed

The tables were set and festive

A friend of Sister Carlos got 175 DARLING stocking, one for each Elder/Sister

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week we held our quarterly Zone Conferences.  At Christmas time, we have all of the missionaries come to Cauayan and we bundle the training with a Christmas dinner/ celebration/ gifts/ singing/ skits and a fun party.  We also group the zones together and hold it three days in a row because there is not room for all 160 missionaries in the church building attached to the Mission Office/Home compound.  Tuesday we hosted three zones, Wednesday and Thursday only two.  I was in charge of the dessert and decided my 'famous' Chocolate Pie would just fit the bill.  Randy calculated the ingredients and did my shopping for me [such a sweetie] so I only had to cook.  During the course of the week, I made the equivalent of 36 pies!   The most efficient way to do it was in 9x13 pans however and that worked great.  We have one elder who is allergic to chocolate so on Thursday, I made one vanilla and it was also a hit!  Filipino's are not normally wild about really sweet things but there was not a lot of waste and I saw many coming back for seconds.  
A friend of Brenda's who has a business that takes her on buying trips to China repeatedly during the year worked with her suppliers to get enough darling Christmas stockings for each Elder and Sister to have one of their own.  We had fun matching some to the different personalities of the missionaries and we filled them with handmade gifts, candy, and a special letter from their family or a testimony from a member if the family did not respond with a letter.  They were so cute and it was such fun to watch the eyes of the missionaries as they entered the cultural hall and spotted them on the stage.  One American Elder [who knew about stockings-the Filipino's didn't understand the concept for the most part but caught on quickly once the tradition was explained to them] leaned over to me and whispered..'sister, are those real stockings or just for decoration?'  I assured him they were real and he was so pumped!!

Sister Carlos made a bizillion pans of lasagna, salad, garlic bread and everyone got their fill.  The most popular item I think was the fresh green salad-a luxury here for the missionaries.  Most don't spend the money to buy then prepare salad so it was a huge hit!

Each zone was asked to prepare and present a skit..some were fun, some serious and all very enjoyable.  The senior missionaries and the AP's had our own skit-it was a take-off on The 12 Day's of Christmas, Filipino style...using a lot of things we only find here.  President and Sister Carlos wrote it on a recent road trip and we had such fun getting our 'props' together.  Here is a UTube link if you want to be brave..hahaha!      

This clever group used rice bags to create their costumes

A Christmas song sung by the Tuguegarao Zone

Sister Fort and Sister Martinez sharing their great talents

Immediately after the meetings on Thursday, we piled into the mission van and traveled to Ilagan for our 5th Devotional then on Friday, to Santiago for our final performance of the season.   Even with his horrible virus, Randy did a grand job with his vocal solo [When Joseph Went to Bethlehem] and his violin accompaniments.  The experience has been awesome and one we or most of the members will not forget.  They are all asking for an encore next year and Sister Carlos and I have actually discussed it...

Our Ilagan characters

And Santiago, our final performance
Saturday Randy and I had one of the best experiences we have had since arriving in the Philippines as we invited Elder Rausa and Elder Oliver to join us in 'the orange project'.  As small children both of us remember having a fresh orange in our Christmas stockings.  Over the years, the orange tradition has been passed down to our children and now our grandchildren.  Oranges, to us, represent love, family, warmth, home...all of the fond memories of our Christmas' past and we decided to purchase and bag oranges to deliver to the people who have put their footprints on our hearts this season...mostly our new members, investigators and a few of the branch families we have become close to and love so much.  At the first house, we just briefly explained what oranges mean to us and that we wanted to share with their family [a very short visit, not the usual 20 minutes we spend].  Then we left...well, at our second house, when we had finished our story or our reason for coming, Elder Rausa broke out in 'We Wish you a Merry Christmas' and we all joined it..that became the way we ended all of the visits and everyone was so thrilled.  Fresh oranges are a treat for most of these people.  It was a wonderful day for us and this afternoon, we are teaming with the sister missionaries to do the same thing in the branch where they serve.  Roxas 1st and 2nd Branches are our main focus and by the end of today, those people will all know how they have touched OUR lives..

Bagged and ready..

Elder Oliver, me, Randy and Elder Rausa
Christmas Eve we decided to involve ourselves [and dragged Elder Oliver and Rausa with us!] in the mission home activities.  President Carlos was very sick so he was quarantined to his bedroom but with the help of Elder Katoa and Elder Cajumban, Sister Carlos was very able and capable of pulling off a grand party!  We had BBQ Chicken on skewers from the grill [thanks to Elder Katoa and a few helpers], President's world-famous eggrolls [thanks to Sister Carlos and Elder Cajumban], Raspberry Chipolte Cream Cheese and crackers, veggies, rice, chips, and a variety of desserts including pie, many different homemade cookies and bars and GRAHAM.  Graham is pronounced 'Gray-hem' by the Filipinos and is a favorite of theirs-I am sending the recipe to Stephanie and Kimberly but if any of you want it, email me.  It is made with graham crackers [hence the name], cream, fresh mangos, sweetened condensed milk and NO CALORIES!!!  yeah, right!!  It is wonderful and I will make a couple of pans for New Year's Eve this weekend.

Sister Carlos is a kid at heart and loves to create things, hence the main activity that night-construction of a Gingerbread House.  Most of the Filipinos have never seen or heard of such a thing but they all did a great job.

pretty nifty, huh??
Christmas day we talked in a district by assignment from President Carlos then gathered with the other old folks at the Mission home for our dinner and gift exchange.  President was feeling a little better but as I type this, on Wednesday morning, he is still not up to par.  It was a great evening and solidified the love I have for these other seniors.  We work well together and play well together...what could be any better???

One last thing is the tradition of 'carolers' here in the Philippines.  Starting mid-November, groups will come to your house and sing Christmas songs and when finished, put their hands out expecting to be paid a tip.  The people here are interesting-I think I have mentioned in the past that there is NO middle class-people are very rich or very poor for the most part and that breeds begging.  I am not one to give handouts, never have been and never will be so when people or children approach me on the street, in front of restaurants or other business establishments, in the palenke, etc. with their 'sad' eyes, the moaning and hand out, I normally ignore them.  We were told early on about the poverty and the begging and were told that as missionaries, we cannot give to beggars.  Americans are targeted anyway because, according to the people here, we are all filthy rich and can afford anything...boy, do they have THAT wrong!!!  Anyway, parents tend to exploit their children in the begging and caroling is no exception.  Many groups came and just wanted peso's but this little group actually sang for us a couple of mornings and touched the soft heart of my hubby.

Our cute little carolers
We are hoping each of you had a grand Christmas with lots of goodies, family and fun gatherings.  New Year's is a big celebration here [and a dangerous one-check next week's blog for more update on that] so we will be gearing up for this weekend when we will all welcome in 2012!  Where has the time gone???

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Picked at 2-3 a.m.,,,,purchased at 6 a.m.,,,cleaned and ready for the fridge/wok by 8 a.m.,,,total cost 2 hours of my time and about $3 US...could life be any better???

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Now THIS is a White Christmas!!

Our White Christmas participants with their silly missionaries...we love these guys and gals!
I have such a difficult time realizing it is December!!!  And only two weeks until the red man creeps through our house and fills our stockings and I AM STILL SWEATING!!!  I suppose if you grew up with palm trees, rainy nights, air conditioning and wanting ice cream in December it would not feel odd but MY history is a fireplace, a warm, snuggly blanket, hot chocolate, a snowstorm howling outside and a great book in front of the tree listening to Christmas music filling the air.  Somehow this just doesn't feel right however.........we had two more marvelous Devotionals and the missionaries are helping me get into the spirit and create a new Christmas on the other side of the world.  I can't even begin to tell you how much I LOVE these people.  They are so warm, friendly, appreciative and enthusiastic.  Our teaching is really blossoming and in the new year, the focus of the work will change drastically...can't wait to see what explosions occur then~
Elder Macaisa, Elder Miole, Sister Tabudlong, Elder Young, Elder Valdez
Friday night we had our second Devotional in the Alicia district.  The missionaries there are so amazing and did a fabulous job of pulling off this wonderful message.  President Carlos does such a great job of bringing the focus to the Savior at this time of year with his message at the end of each presentation.   One of the most moving parts of the evening is always at the end of the devotional when we invite any current or past full-time missionaries to come up and sing 'We'll Bring the World His Truth' with the missionary choir on the stand.  Some are hesitant to come forward but once a couple stand up, they all join in and what a powerful message is delivered-we are bringing His truth to this part of the world and how wonderful that truth is in our lives.  There are few dry eyes, even the investigators are touched.

Yesterday was such a busy day-the morning started with the District [kind of like a Stake but more spread out] Relief Society Christmas Party.  The women here LOVE to party and can really put on quite the event.  It is so funny though because the word promptly does not exist in their culture.  When I ask someone when an event is supposed to start, they give me a time range of usually two hours.  I was told this party will start around 8 but it was 10 when the actual opening exercises, the welcome, etc. occurred.  I think part of the reason is the distance and transportation issues these people face-some come two hours to attend and bring their food for the day with them.  The Relief Society party went until 2 and most then boarded Jeepney's to take them to Burgos for the Devotional.

The sisters from Tabuk-2 hours away

The sweet Aurora sisters with their part of the entertainment
We also had a marvelously 'white Christmas' with the baptism of 24 people!!!  What an awesome sight as they all gathered for a photo shoot.  The baptism was at noon [but really started at 1:15] and with the speakers and the program, ended at 2:45 which really put a crunch on the devotional participants but we pulled it off without a hitch!  Randy has a solo part that is just wonderful-he sings 'When Joseph Went to Bethlehem' with such feeling and emotion and it takes me back to our Christmas eve celebrations with our little ones-we always 'did' the nativity and that was a favorite song for our family.  If Cristin and Kim were to hear him, they both would be weeping...he also plays the violin as an obligato to Mary's Lullaby, normally sung as a duet with Brenda and me but last night, as the Carlos' were at a District Conference and couldn't attend, I invited our 'Filipina Cora' to sing it as a solo-she is only 8 years old but has such a strong and pure voice.  I saw many eyes being dabbed during her presentation.  Brenda invited her to do it again in Cauayan on the 18th for their devotional so we will hear her one more time.

Our 'characters' for Roxas were Elder McGuffin, Elder Oliver, Elder Rausa, Elder Ward and Sister Villamor
Tomorrow I will go to the mission home very early and will spend my preparation day baking Christmas cookies and candies with Brenda.  Not sure if Gloria or Sister Russell [Sharon] will be able to come but it will be fun.  I am making Soda Cracker Candy, a favorite of our family.  What is your favorite Christmas goody and are you making it this year???

Thursday, December 8, 2011

WOWEE!!!! such beauty...

The setting of our hotel

Two cute old people...

Brenda and Randy walking down a little path leading to a souvenir shop-notice the dense foliage

These are wild poinsettias..they are everywhere and HUGE!!!!

I have lived MANY years and have never, for as long as I can remember, seen such breath-taking sights as we saw last Monday in Banaue.  If you google it, you will discover it is the 8th Wonder of the World and now, I know why.  It was absolutely gorgeous and it was not even the best time to be going.  You can see the rice terraces in the picture above and in the spring [April and May] all of those areas that are currently mud [waiting to be planted] will be lime green with new seedlings.  We hope to go back then and see it in it's height of beauty.  Another senior couple has been assigned to our mission and will be coming in February so we will probably take a road trip so they can enjoy the splendor.

A short history lesson...
It is amazing to think these people arrived at this mountainous area, saw the possibilities and actually accomplished such a feat with NO TOOLS!!!!  The native Ifugao people are still there and enthralled us with a cultural program on Sunday night, sharing with us the dances, clothing, and traditions of their people.  They are very small people, as you can see by the picture of Randy with this man in his native dress.
A native ritual dance

Randy and our new friend-Randy is the one on the right!!

Ifugao woman in their typical resting pose
We truly enjoyed the beauty and the glorious experience of being in that part of the mission, if for only a day.  Randy took a couple of movies and will post them on UTube sometime soon.

Last Friday we had our first of many Christmas Devotional's scheduled in the next few weeks.  Upon our arrival in August, I learned of Brenda's desire to give this opportunity to the Stakes and Districts in this area and because we have written and produced many events together in our former lives, I think she was just laying in wait for me to come.  I am not the front man but I am a great supporter!!  Together, we gathered our scriptures, a computer and within a few hours, had a great one hour production.  It took another morning to gather the costumes but both of us have, in our young families, done the nativity so the costuming was not complicated, just a challenge here in the Philippines, to find the items we needed.  The groundskeeper at the mission home even provided a staff for the shepherd from a nearby tree!  I wish you could have seen the faces of the members as they filed into the chapel and saw the missionaries on the stand, some dressed in their costumes, and heard, for the first time in their lives a quartet singing acapella!!!  Everything went off without a hitch and I think it turned out great!  Our second one is tonight, another tomorrow afternoon in all, we have 6-7 planned.  An interesting side note-the District President, upon welcoming the audience [some were members and many were just friends who were not of our faith] said history was made that night-NEVER in the past have they had any program of this kind.  Both Brenda and I were so touched by that but saddened that nobody had thought to provide such an evening for these great saints.  Well, people, this will be one of two because we will definitely do something again next year.  
Elder Bangal and Elder Williamson [shepherd and king]

Missionary Choir during their pre-performance practice
The highlight of our weeks are normally the time we spend with our dear young elders and sisters and this week, although starting with a little break, was no exception.  We worked with the Mallig elders on Tuesday, the sister missionaries and our dear President Munoz on Wednesday and finished with the Zone Leaders on Thursday, teaching 22 lessons!  That is what this is all about-teaching, lifting, supporting, and helping those who are seeking truth, find the answers and in the process, changing lives and helping families come to Christ.  What are we doing tomorrow you ask?  Over 20 baptisms, another devotional and more spiritual food for us!  What else could we possibly want???  [maybe a kid or grandkid to hug?.haha]

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Big 66 and a great gobble day...

If anyone would have told me last Thanksgiving that I would be eating turkey, dressing, mashed potato's, and all the trimmings except cranberry sauce IN THE PHILIPPINES for Thanksgiving this year with 8 of my favorite people, I probably would have said 'not possible'.  How could I ever expect to get Butterball Turkeys here but lo and behold, Sister Carlos did it!  We had a grand time eating, talking about our greatest blessings in our lives and sharing time together.  After we ate and cleaned up the kitchen, out came the boxes and the Mission Home turned into a Christmas wonderland.  Here, the Filipino people love Christmas and begin their celebration in September.  By Halloween, they are in full swing and because there is no holiday for them between October 31st and December 31st, they get busy and enjoy the decorations and music.  Sister Carlos was bound and determined NOT to get her Christmas out until after we digested the turkey so this past week, the mission compound has been transformed.  There is a member of the church who is hired to be the night watchman at the mission home and he is willing and very able in the night to put up lights, clean up things, whatever needs to be done.  The lighting there is good so he just buzzes around the area and does the transformation at holiday times.  
Such a beautiful table-notice the napkins, Annalee??

The chief cook and turkey carver

There was also a pumpkin pie [hardest thing to find was the pumpkin]

Relish tray, creamed corn, fruit salad, mashers, broccoli salad, and so much more!

We lacked for NO food and had a great feast.  You can get a good idea of the size of this kitchen area from these pictures-it is a lovely home and very roomy and comfortable.  It has a good feel...

We all pitched in and helped with the decorations...

Rudy with the AP's 'building the tree'

Sister Russell found a lonely guitar and sang us a toon...

The AP's putting the lights on the tree

Elder and Sister Breese putting the nativity together

Elder Katoa and Elder Hale, the current assistants

For those of you who read this blog and are not members of our church, let me explain a little about the assistants.  The mission president has a HUGE responsibility and is extremely busy.  His schedule is never-ending and gruesome at times.  Problems pop up now and then in the mission and the church has designated him the right to ask two of his most responsible and worthy missionaries to be his 'assistants'.  Currently, they are living in an apartment above the mission office and serve as his extended hands.  They travel with him to meetings, [usually driving for him] they call missionaries and set up appointments for them to come in for interviews, they assist in the training meetings, they transport injured or ill missionaries to health facilities, in short, they are his 'gofers' but really much more.  Because of the incredible amount of time they spend together, they become so endeared to the mission president and his wife, sometimes emotionally taking the role of their children to help the president and companion with the absence of their own family.  I have seen these two give up their own lives to help their dear mission president, not begrudging it one speck.  They will serve for usually 4-5 months together then one will move on to another assignment while the remaining assistant trains the new replacement.  Then a little while later, the original will be transferred and another will take his place.  They actually willingly give up a period of their own mission to change responsibilities and assist the president.  In two weeks, Elder Hale will be going home so tomorrow, at transfers, we will be getting a new assistant and the rotation will start anew.  It is a wonderful plan and works like a charm.
Friday morning we had the greatest time of our lives!!  It was Randy's 66th birthday and during the course of three hours, we were able to see and talk to all of our children, all of our 'in-law' children and 21 of our 24 grandchildren!!  That was a first for us here in the Philippines and we haven't stopped smiling yet!  The kids all sang to Grandpa then we visited with each one and really enjoyed the time we spent.  Our cup was filled that day for sure and one interesting phenomenon happened...KC's birthday is the 24th and Randy's is the 25th and they got to tell each other Happy Birthday on their own actual birthday because we are living across the International Date Line for the next two years-I told them it would be a twice in a lifetime experience!  They thought that was cool...

MY cookie monster with his cake...

A great little bakery here did the cake for me-it was PERFECT!!!
I mentioned earlier that tomorrow is transfers and we will be having lots of big changes in the mission. President Carlos is opening a new area up north and yesterday Randy and I traveled to Tabuk with the Russell's [the senior couple whose responsibility is the apartments for all 160 missionaries] and found the new apartment and offloaded some furniture and kitchen supplies to set up housekeeping for them.  After the transfer meeting tomorrow, Randy and I will drive back up there and deliver the new guys to their new area.  Transfer meeting is always fun-missionaries see each other and hug and cry [if they are ones wearing skirts] and lots of bedlam occurs.  Tomorrow morning we will be getting a new 'batch' of missionaries at 5:30 a.m.  The American ones will have been traveling for 24+ hours and the Filipino's will have just left the MTC in Manila.  They will ride a bus all night and arrive here tired but wired...it is such a high to finally arrive at the place you have dreamed about and planned for...I remember the feeling just like it was yesterday.

Our weather today was in the 90's and tomorrow is December 1st!  I still can't get used to that.  I hung our laundry out this morning and gathered it in this afternoon, all in my undies because of the heat.....yes, our back yard is VERY private-walled all around and NOBODY can peek in..haha!  Randy is gone until later tonight and I am just 3 hours away from being completely finished with my pillowcase project!  When done, I will have put in over 250 hours and will have 200 great pillowcases to use as gifts for the missionaries this year and have enough to allow the new ones coming in the next year to choose one also.  My hope is that they will use them and be able to identify their own pillow by the unique case-there are no two alike so they should be able to keep them straight.  That is the hope anyway..

Christmas is around the corner...we are building new memories and traditions here in this part of the world..what are you doing with your traditions this year??

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Truly thankful...

In America, this is the week we celebrate Thanksgiving and it always makes me reflect on the blessings in MY life.  Above you will see 27 of the 36 biggest blessings that are mine.  What a wonderful thing a family is...these people have unconditional love for me and for each other and what a great blessing that is for me, being 10,000 miles [16,000 KM] away from them for two years.

My friend Kathy has a blog that I follow and this past week she has been posting daily on the blessings in her life.  I loved that idea but not having her technology [IPhone] and with our current responsibilities and such, that would be unmanageable for me so pondered and decided to use her example for my weekly visit with you all.

I try to walk most mornings and as I do, I usually talk to my Father in Heaven, getting His input on my day, my problems, my assignments, etc.  This morning as I walked, I was just SO thankful for the wonderful experiences we are having, the fantastic and beautiful people of the Philippines, etc. and thought I would just share with YOU my blessing list:

     *First and foremost I am grateful for my family.  They have stuck with this crazy mom/Meemaw through many difficult trials and they all still seem to love me!  That love sustains me here where I have NO family to hug, snuggle, sniff, and hold.
      *My membership in the church and the knowledge I have of it's truthfulness.
      *My Father in Heaven and His son Jesus Christ who died for me that when I mess up, [and I do often] I can be forgiven and continue to grow and learn.
      *I am grateful for my parents.  I had a good mom who loved me and tried her best to teach me the things she felt were important for my life.  From her I learned forgiveness, how to laugh, what was important in my world around me, how to notice the little things in life, how to play and love cards, how competition is a good thing, how winning is also a good thing and losing is not the end of the world, the value of education, that being a mom was going to be the best thing in my life and probably the most important thing she taught me was how to be a good grandma.  She was the BEST grandma I have ever known.  From my father I learned the value of hard work, charity, generosity, service to his fellowmen how to sense people's needs and moods, how to fish [but I refused to clean them!] and a true love of the outdoors.  He also taught me the importance of family stories.
     *for Randy's parents who raised him to be the man he is, thoughtful, forgiving, spiritual, loving, family oriented, loyal, talented, always finding the good in people, thrifty, compassionate, responsible, dependable, and I could go ON and ON...after all, I have loved this man more than breath for over 45 years!!!
     *music-I love music and until about 15 years ago, my voice was my identity.  I sang from the time I was a little child and loved to perform.  I truly miss my singing voice.  I am also grateful my mom sacrificed to give me the gift of music.  She scrimped and saved so that I could have a piano and lessons.  I am now using that skill here to bless the lives of others as I open that opportunity for them when I teach.
     *clean water
     *hot showers
     *nutritious and delicious food
     *my education
     *indoor plumbing
     *paved roads
     *to live in a free country where we don't need gates and walls to keep us safe.
     *great friends who love me unconditionally even when they know my weaknesses
     *fresh ice and cold water to drink
     *my health...probably should be higher on this list
     *my testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ...also higher on the list
     *my hearing, taste, touch, good vision and my sense of smell
     *my sense of humor
     *the skills and talents the Lord has blessed me with, specifically my ability to work with my hands and my 'out of the box' ability to problem solve and be creative
     *good teeth
     *strong body that has taken me many miles in it's life
     *my ability to forgive others and love them in spite of their shortcomings
     *my two amazing grandmothers that each helped mold me to be the person I am today
     *aunts and uncles, cousins and other relatives who make me laugh
     *my brother and his family...
     *a bed to sleep in and the ability I have to sleep well and sound most nights
     *my ability to sign and communicate with the deaf
     *these amazingly wonderful Filipino people that our loving Father in Heaven has allowed us to rub shoulders with for the next two years and their patience with these silly Americans...US!!
     *the wonderful full-time missionaries we have had the privilege to work with here in the Philippines.
Our crazy, nutty group!!
I am sure there are things I will think of as I close this post but first and foremost, I stopped this week to think of the blessings in my life and to thank the One who loved me enough to give them to me.  Have you???

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Music, priesthood, family home evening and CHRISTMAS!!!

See the tall blonde in the back??  She loves these people..
Do you see this gorgeous group of people???  Allow me to introduce you all to my FIRST piano class!  Originally, we had 11 sign up but by the second week [my cut-off time for any new enrollees] the class had grown to 14 and there it will stay.  I think the number is more manageable, especially once we finish with the theory foundation and start the performance part of the training.  I am planning a 15 minute performance lesson weekly once we get to that point and with that said, my basic math tells me it will take 3.5 hours to accomplish.  Hopefully I can find 4 students who can start their individual lessons at 4 and then we would finish for the day at 7:30 p.m.  School in the Philippines starts at 7 a.m. and continues until 5 p.m. so it will have to be the adults who come at 4.  They are all bright but there are a few who stand out as motivated musicians.  Time will tell...

I think I have mentioned before how the Filipino's LOVE Christmas.  Well, there are lights everywhere, music in every possible venue [even our neighbor has it blaring night and day so we don't need to play ours at all!] Christmas trees with lights, yard trees that have been lit, etc.  We in America think WE love this season...we would lose in an 'enthusiasm for Christmas' contest with the Filipinos!
A tree in a yard on my walk..

My neighbor's front porch...

I have a hard time thinking that NEXT week is Thanksgiving!  It seems like we have been here such a short time and it is turkey time...Brenda did a 'formal' invitation to a gobble-day dinner at the mission home and afterwards, we will decorate the house with her Christmas decorations.  Last year, their housekeeper tried to get the Christmas thing going in October and tried again a couple of week ago.  These people love their holidays!

Monday night we went to Family Home Evening at the Munoz home.  He is our Branch President, a single dad to three marvelously talented children [his wife died in 2009] and we are so impressed with the way he has just given up HIS needs to serve his family.  He only works when the children are in school because the most important thing in his world is them!  We love this family and feel SO blessed to have them in our lives. 

You may recognize two of those boys in the piano picture seated here with us-these children are so talented.  Alyssa, who is 8, is the one Randy and I call 'Filipino Cora' because she reminds us in build and personality of Cristin's daughter.  Mark Jay [red shirt] and Mark Prince are both fine young men.  Their daddy is definitely doing something right!!  Randy took his violin and accompanied the hymns as well as did a special number for them.  A wonderful evening for us!

For some reason I can't caption today so will explain the above pictures-this is Sister Remmie and her son John.  You might remember Sister Ulep who was our first baptism?   Sister Remmie is her niece [pamumpkin] and lives across the road from her.  She has been taking the discussions and has set a date for baptism.  Her hubby was involved in one lesson and we hope will also join her in the waters of baptism.  The broken chair was the one I was sitting on and all was well until I tried to change position and cross my legs...thump!  Down I went.  I was more embarrassed than hurt and vowed to get back on my diet immediately!!!  Side note-the chair was very rotted because of the sun and weather but we went to the store and replaced it twofold, none the less.  NOW there will be two chairs there that will support Randy and me!

In our church, once a year the young boys who will be turning 12 gather for what we call a 'Priesthood Preview'.  Each of the boys will be ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood in the near future and this is a time for them to learn the responsibilities, duties, and history of the priesthood they will soon hold.   It is always done on a Stake/District level so many come from all over to attend.  Some of these families traveled 2-3 hours to support their sons.  Randy was asked to be the guest speaker and did a great job.  He also was asked to do a special musical number and played a few Primary [the organization for the children ages 3-11] songs that everyone enjoyed.  He is really polishing his skill, another blessing of extra time on his hands.

Monday as I was walking my normal route, I heard what appeared to be a chorus of children's voices down one road that I don't normally take.  I followed it and low and behold, there was a school and the yard was filled with children singing the national anthem and raising the flag!  I remembered doing that as a child and it brought to my remembrance so many fond memories.  It also made me realize something.  If you think of America about 150 years ago, that is where much of the country is stuck.  They have some modern technology [like cell phones and a few computers] but most of the homes we visit have dirt floors, no electricity or plumbing, no refrigeration, and none have an oven.  All the homes are made of cinder blocks [even the one we live in however, our walls are plastered over and painted to look like wallboard] and most have dirt or rock floors.   President Munoz has the nicest home we have been in-it is very warm and inviting and very secure.  He keeps it clean and orderly as do all of the people here-I am amazed!   They are very clean people in their manner, dress, bodies, etc.

Anyway, when the children spotted me standing there peering over the wall, they all turned around and waved.  The principal came over and invited me in to speak to the children!  They had a teacher sick and no teacher for one class and she suggested I stay and teach!  I assured her that with the language barrier, I would not be a successful educator.  Anyway, before we came here, I went shopping with Kayleen and while we were at the Gateway in Salt Lake, I bought a new pair of walking shoes-they are wonderfully comfortable and I love them and they are HUNTER ORANGE!!!   You should have seen the schoolyard erupt in giggles and pointing when I stepped through the gate.  It was worth the detour!
Notice the uniforms?  Every school has a different one and they all look so great!

One last treat this week was meeting Oyeen Dy Valcos.  He is a friend of Marcie Nielson who we knew in Omaha in the 70's when she was just a little girl.  We are facebook friends and I had actually visited with Oyeen a few times so it was nice to finally put a face with the name.  President and Sister Carlos met him shortly after arriving in 2010 and had him to dinner last week.  We were invited to join them and had a great evening.  He is such an interesting person...a world traveler for sure!!

It has rained since noon on Monday and I am getting ready to go purchase some lumber to start building our ark!!  Wish you were all here to see the umbrella parade!  Until next week...