Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Concepciòn Revisited; and Our Trip to the Bottom of the World

          On 11 May we began a thirteen day marathon through two missions that put us on seven flights and took us all the way south to the Strait of Magellan.  We had been invited to teach, consult, and give flu shots in the Concepción and the Osorno Missions, and that came hard on the heels of doing similar things in the Concepción South, Rancagua, and Viña del Mar Missions.

          Our visit to Concepción followed by three weeks our previous visit to that city, which had borne the brunt of the 27 Feb earthquake.  This time we flew, and a senior couple, the Fischbecks, picked us up and drove us around.  We were able to see more of the damage than we had before.  There is visable evidence all around of the 10' drop the city fell during the quake.  We also had a humorous experience trying to find a hotel  called the Tierra Mar, which now is more mar than tierra.

We were able to see a little earthquake damage on this second trip.  This photos of an office building is typical of the very common damage.  See the top level where much has fallen off.  Click on the second one to see the damage of the tile roofs.  This was everywhere.  We came to realize that tile roofs are easily destroyed in an earthquake.  The corrugated metal roofs fared well.

          We spent two days attending zone conferences in the Concepción Mission and then flew back to Santiago for a two-hour lay-over, only to fly very far south again, this time to Punta Arenas (Sandy Point) on the Strait of Magellan.  (A veteran of traveling to the south of Chile had told us that our schedules needed to be flexible for traveling in that part of the country.)  That flight was 3 1/2 hrs.; to give you some idea of the distance covered, we went from latitude 33.5° to 53.5° south, approx. the distance between Salt Lake and Atlanta.

When we got to the airport we had problems with the medications that we were transporting.  We didn't have anything official to show why we were transporting hundred of syringes with vaccine in them.  They would not let us board the plane without something official.  Pres. Lovell had an idea.  He had them copy Dave's license and also his health insurance card (go figure--it just looks official I guess) and then he got behind the counter and typed out a very official looking document saying who Dave was and what he was doing.  (Pres. Lovell is an attorney.)  They bought it and we were on our way.

          This area is known here as 'Fin de Tierra,' or 'The End of the Earth', because it literally is at the bottom of the American Continent.  President and Sister Lovell, of the Chile Osorno Mission, met us there and we spent eleven days traveling with them.  I believe that the Lovells have one of the more inaccessible missions in the world; for example, you can only get to Punta Arenas by boat, airplane, or by driving for many hours through Argentina.  The rest of their mission requires a great deal of flying and /or taking ferries.  That is why eleven days were set aside for five zone conferences.  The other cities we had conferences in were Coyhaique, Puerto Montt, Osorno, and Valdivia.

This is a photo of Punta Arenas and the Strait of Magellan.  It looks beautiful and calm but it is treacherous by ship and many, many have lost their lives.  However, apparently rounding the Horn is even worse.  I love the colorful homes in these cities.  Punta Arenas is more cosmopolitan than most of Chile.  I could buy shortening and brown sugar in the stores there.  There have more importing and exporting from the US.

We were occupied by our duties almost all of that time.  We did, however, get to see some of the sites from a distance, at least.  This area of Chile has some of the most stunning scenery I've seen, even in late autumn.  I'll try to describe it:  The more northerly part of the Osorno Mission in divided into two regions (states):  Los Rios, and Los Lagos.  This is, as it sounds, an area of rivers and lakes, and VOLCANOES.  It rains an incredible amount here, and that makes it quite verdant.  The many, many lakes are idyllic.  The area was settled by Germans, and it retains its German architecture and character - but not language.  Then there is a large inhabited island called Chiloé.  It is on the Pacific, and it gets approx. 13 feet of rain annually.  Further south from Chiloé the country is simply a maze of islands and deep fjords.  The southernmost regions of the country are Aisén and Magallanes (Magellan).  Together, these are known as Patagonia.  It is one of the few remaining truly wild areas in the Western Hemisphere, on a par with northern Alaska and the Amazon Basin.  Patagonia has nearly a dozen national parks.  These are full of glaciers, rugged peaks, rivers and waterfalls, active and extinct volcanoes, and pristine, old-growth forests.

These are the Hamiltons, a senior couple serving in the Osorno Mission as the office couple.  Before their mission, they already owned a wonderful home on the shore of Lake Llanquehue.  They took half a day to show us the lakes area including their home.  The town of Llanquihue and the surrounding towns are are strongly German.  There are three volcanos on the shores of this lake but due to cloud cover, we could not see them.

Here are some shots of the beautiful glacial lake

These are salmon farms in the water.

Notice how much this looks like Bavaria

This is the Hamilton's home

I was really interested in this marvelous carving showing the pioneers of the area.  The Germans moved into this area which was uninhabited at the invitation of the Chilean government.  They had some tremendous hardships.

many, many of the buildings were very German looking such as this one.

 When we were in Coyhaique it had the appearance of a Vail, set down in a narrow Alpine valley.  Puerto Montt and Osorno were towered over by the 20,000 ft, snow-covered Volcán Osorno.   The drive to Valdivia follows a 'new' valley created by the 1960 earthquake, the strongest ever recorded in the world.  Puerto Montt has a beautiful harbor.  Punta Arenas looks a little more barren; mostly a windblown grassy steppe, but wildly beautiful.  This time of year the days are very short and there's quite a chill in the air.  In fact, we wore winter clothes throughout our tour of Misión Osorno.

This is Puerto Montt.  This view is taken from our hotel room.


These are shots of Coyhaique which is up in the Andes.  The scenery was stunning with the fall colors which do not show much in these photos.

This is Pres. and Sis. Lovell at the cute bed and bnreakfast in Coyhaiqui.

 We did not come on this mission for the purpose of touring, so we are not disappointed that we didn't get to see more of the scenic beauty.  We were surprised when we  found out that our calling would require so much travel, especially this early into our service.  It is simply an unanticipated bonus - alright, a blessing - that we get to see these world-class places.  We're not complaining. The big reason we've been gone so much is to get the H1N1/seasonal influenza vaccinations given before it gets further into the flu season.  Swine flu was pretty common, and severe, last year amongst the missionaries here.  Now that that task is pretty well done, we shouldn't have such a hectic schedule again until next year when we repeat the process.  If we then can get started a little earlier it will put us into the 'deep south' at a better time of the year for traveling.

          So, we've already traveled two-thirds of the length of this absurdly-shaped, two-dimensional country.  We can't claim to have traveled its breadth, since it has none.  What a variety of landscapes we've seen, already.  However, the greatest rewards have come in meeting nearly all of the incredibly dedicated young missionaries and feeling of their testimonies and spirituality.  What a privilege it is for us to be able to work with so many wonderful young sons and daughters of God.  The future of the Church is going to be in good hands!  We've also been able to meet 7 senior couples assigned to the missions, out 'working in the trenches,' and to a person , they are exceptionally happy people, loving what they are doing.  We've stayed in the apartments of some of them.  We've also slept and dined in ther homes of half of the mission presidents and their wives.  That, also, has been a great privilege, as we've visited in the evenings and shared long drives on the road, airplane flights and restaurant meals.  It was a great experience getting to know these special servants of the Lord, feeling their testimonies, and seeing their love for their missionaries.

          During our travels, the responsibility of area medical advisor continued.  A lot more of it had to be carried out over the phone, whose battery was difficult to keep charged because of the volume of calls.  There still were missionaries in Santiago, and all of the other places, getting sick, being bitten by dogs, needing hospitalization and/or surgery, or referral to specialists.  We have a senior hermana missionary who works in the area office, and who also is a retired RN.  She was a great help to us, as we co-ordinated many of these things over the phone.

          The travel was nice.  But after being gone for four out of the preceding five weeks it was nice to return to a more orderly, organized schedule and a place where we have all of the things we need to do our job.  It was also nice to get back to our 'home away from home', the lovely city of Santiago.  With its vastness, traffic, and pollution, it's still a very beautiful place in which to live; at least, all of the parts we see, even with the trees now mostly bare.  On our computer desktop we have a function that gives us a continuous readout of the weather in Santiago and also in Fillmore, Utah.  At the time of our leaving, two weeks ago, the temperatures were pretty close to the same at any given time.  During the time we were gone those temperature swithced to being warmer in Fillmore than in Santiago.  It is really hard to get used to thinking of May in the autumn and November in spring.

        We are back to seeing sick missionaries in the clinic at the area office (you wouldn't believe how many of them were waiting for our first two days back).  We continue to see and treat missionaries, advise mission presidents regarding more difficult cases,  give immunizations in the MTC,  review medical reports on missionary applicants from Chile, and work on a number of special projects.  Suzanne has resumed her piano teaching.  We will still be scheduled to visit the missions, one at a time, to teach health-related topics in their zone conferences and consult in person with missionaries who live too far from Santiago to come into the area office.  We will continue to enjoy playing a useful role in this great missionary work.

          We are indeed blessed!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Travels to the Rancagua and Viña Del Mar Missions

We spent Monday night through Saturday night on the road giving flu shots to two of the missions in Chile--Rancagua which is just south of Santiago and Vina Del Mar which is north.  It was a very full and very fun week.  We drove to both areas and found our way around quite well.  The following is an except from my journal for the week.

The trip to Rancagua was nice but we did go too far and had to backtrack a little.  We stayed the night with the Wengreens who are a senior office couple.  They are just wonderful and we had a most delightful time with them.  I particularly enjoyed Sis. Wengreen.  She has a wonderfully positive attitude and is doing amazingly well with her Spanish for only being in Chile for 5 months.   He is the office secretary and she is the historian but they also do support for a branch, do proselytizing and teach seminary on Saturday morning.

We didn’t get to bed until about 11:30 pm and needed to be up at 6 am to be gone by 7:30 am with four of us using the same bathroom.  It all worked out and we would have been on time except that the van didn’t start and they wasted 30 minutes trying to get it going before deciding to take our car.  We got to the first place late and that continued for the whole day with all three stops but it all worked out just fine.  Dave held clinic at each place while I gave the injections. Sis. Resek, the Missiona President's wife, was at the first location and she gave the missionaries stern directions to get the shots.  She minced no words.  We started in the south end of their mission
and worked north.  Here is a photo of the great reception we received as we came to give the shots.  It was fun!

The photo above is of Sis. Resek with some sister missionaries.  As soon as she got there, one of the sisters came up and ask if there was some way Sis. Resek could get her peanut butter.  Sis. Resek reached in her bag and pulled out a jar of peanut better.  She had been prompted that morning to put the jar in her bag.

We finished and got back to Rancagua in the later afternoon.  In the evening we drove to Pres. and Hna. Resek’s beautiful home to give them shots and had homemade  pizza with them.  I had forgotten to bring the flu vaccines so Elder Wengreen ran back to get them while we ate pizza and waited for Pres. Resek who had done 80 interviews that day and didn’t finish until almost 9 pm.  The Reseks are from Argentina and have four boys—all living with them.  I think the boys are about 8-16 and they are delightful young men.  What a great family.  Here the Reseks are on the left and the Wengreens on the right with another Resek boy.  They have four boys.

We left the next morning at 8am and had four places to go north of Rancagua up in the suburbs of Santiago.  These were all closer together so it went pretty fast.  All in all we gave 165 shots.  It is so fun to be with the missionaries.  I get rejuvenated every time by their enthusiasm.

We had a little time to get things somewhat settled for the next morning and then went to bed early.  Dave was still feeling pretty sick.

Thursday morning we left again about 9 am for Viña del Mar after calling Paul and having a nice visit with him for his birthday.  We took the loop into Valparaiso.  On the way we had untold telephone calls.  We couldn’t keep up with them and we were lost in Valpo and going the wrong way on a one-way street.  We finally had to stop taking the calls.  When we got to Viña, the phone was dead.  It had charged all night but we had used it so much in the morning, it was dead and needed charging in the church.

Valparaiso is built on seven hills and the homes go straight up the hill and are painted in very bright colors over their corrugated metal walls and roofs.  It is very famous for its distinct personality.

Parley P. Pratt and his wife traveled to Chile in 1851 and dedicated Chile for the preaching of the gospel.  While there, they had a son who died and there is a memorial to that baby in the cemetery.

All non-Catholics were buried in the Cemetary for Dissidents as seen here.  That is where we found the plaque for the Pratt baby.

Viña del Mar is a beautiful city on the ocean with beautiful parks and buildings.  It is a relatively new city.  It had been land granted early by Spain to Spanish elite and finally in the 1800’s, after poor management, they started selling it off in parcels.  It gradually became a city.

We instantly liked President and Sis. Gillespie.  They are wonderful.  We got there at the end of their zone conference.  Dave saw patients and I gave about 70 shots.  It only took a little over an hour.  Then Pres. and Hna. Gillespie took us to their beautiful home and served us a wonderful almuerzo with an avocado salad that was to die for and chicken cordon bleu.  We had such a nice visit.  Then they took us on a good tour of Valparaiso—up and down the very steep hills filled with brightly colored homes as well as a stunning view of the ocean. It was just perfect.
At the Gillespie's, we stayed in what they call the 'general authority suite'—a building behind the Gillespie home that has two small apartments which are used for guests.  It is very comfortable.  We had a relaxing evening studying and reading.  We needed that so it was great.  However, we got a phone call just after 2 am from a senior sister missionary in Santiago.  Her companion had gotten up in the night for a drink and the bathroom and passed out cold and hit her head.  She couldn’t stay conscious.  We directed them to get her to the hospital and that was difficult for them.  For some reason, they couldn’t get an ambulance.  Their guard at the apartment even tried to help.  Finally they had to wake up the couple where the wife is the nurse who helps us in the clinic.  With three of them, they were able to get her out to a taxi.  She couldn’t really walk.  We were pretty worried about her.

Friday morning Dave was still feeling pretty rough.  We talked with the sisters at the hospital and found that all the tests were negative.  The sister was very drowsy, dizzy and nauseated but they felt that this must all be from the concussion so they decided to send her home from the ER mid-morning.  We didn’t have to be to the next conference in the Viña del Mar Mission until 1 pm so we took our time.  We also went on a nice walk down to the seashore and walked along the walkway there.  There were large black rocks that looked a lot like slate, piled high to make a sea wall.   Many had been written on—mostly scriptures from the Bible.  We were stopping to read many of them and not paying a lot of attention.  Suddenly we saw a wall of water rising up over the seawall toward us.  We turned and ran toward the street but the wave got us and pretty much soaked our back sides and my backpack.  We got a good laugh out of that.
We again gave shots after the conference and Dave saw missionaries.  Then we left for a place called Los Vilos, another coastal city which is up the coast about 2 hours or so.  It was a beautiful drive and we arrived without much difficulty at the wonderful chapel there.  It is just a branch but it has a most beautiful, new building with  tile work on the lower walls and floors and a most lovely chapel.  Here we gave about 8 shots or so and Dave talked with several missionaries and then we left and headed north again to Coquimbo, a blue collar town right on the sea, just a few miles from the resort town of La Serena.  We arrived at the cute little home of the Sextons about 10 pm.  The drive had been nice but we were aware that we had passed beautiful scenery along the sea and it had been too dark to enjoy it.  The Sextons are another just wonderful couple.  They are converts from Texas.  She was an RLDS member and it took her a long time to decide to join the church.  Her husband had joined years before her.  They are so full of excitement for the work and are doing a great job of activation in the area.  She also teaches piano.  We slept the night at their home and the next morning took them to the little church with us for the immunizations of their 14 missionaries including them. 
They got us on our way to La Serena but we were already late when we left.  We found La Serena without much difficulty and gave another 12 shots or so and Dave visited with missionaries about health problems.

Here we are at the home of the Sextons, Texan converts.  She was RLDS before her conversion.  They are doing an incredible work in Coquimbo with reactivation, teaching piano, etc.  We had a great time with them

From there we left for Ovalle but got lost going out of town and lost a lot of time.  We were about an hour late for Ovalle.  It has another wonderful church for their branch and I was so impressed with what appeared to be great organization.  There were sign- up sheets on the bulletin board for feeding the missionaries, talent night, and a RS activity of baking or something.  They also had posters up with the photos of all the Deacons, all the Teachers and all the Priests in the ward.  Pretty impressive!  Everywhere we went, we had great visits with the missionaries and that is so fun.  They have so much energy and enthusiasm about them.

From there we started home.  At first we saw all types of agriculture.  We passed beautiful fields, many of which looked like they had just recently been planted to cold weather crops like cabbage and lettuce. Then we got into vineyards and orchards.  There was an orchard of some type of fruit tree that we passed for  5-7 minutes going about 65 miles an hour and it did not stop.  It also went to our right for as far as we could see.  I cannot comprehend an orchard that size.  It had to be 7 miles or more long. There was no longer fruit on the trees so we could not tell what kind of fruit they were.

Some of the drive from Ovalle was not so pretty for quite awhile.  It looks a lot like driving through Wyoming or Nevada and parts of Utah.  It is a big-time desert with many cacti and other desert plants.  There were many fences of cacti as seen here.  Some of the large cacti are just starting to bloom in large red flowers, however.  The soil is a light colored, coarse sand and there were very few people.  The homes were very modest—small, square, cement or wood homes with mostly corrugated metal roofs.  We think that the main industry through there is mining and goats.  We saw many signs for goat cheese.  There were no towns for a long time.  Finally the highway turned and headed back to the coast just as the sun was getting ready to set.

We saw the most stunning sea scapes with the sunset on the horizon and large black rocks jutting up in the crashing, foamy waves.  It reminded me a lot of Hawaii.  .

We have covered a lot of territory in the last two weeks.  By the time we finish in Osorno in three weeks, we will have covered an area from about Ohio to LA.  So far we do not have plans to go to the most northern part of the country—Antofagasta.  Traveling from the top of the Antofagasta Mission to the bottom-most tip of the Osorno mission is the distance from Boston to LA.

We're loving it here.