Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Perfect Trip part 1--The Capital and Chiquimula

After Thanksgiving and tending kids,  I only had four days before leaving for Guatemala.  My friends the Perkins from Kanosh had called me months before to invite me to go down to Guatemala for the dedication of the Quezeltenango Temple in Dec.  They are serving a mission at the Guatemala City Temple right now.   I planned it so I could spend a week in Chiquimula where Dave and I served as missionaries in 2007 and 2008.  

I had it worked out so that I would be back in time for Nancy's next chemo but they decided they had diagnosed her wrong and that she was not HER2 positive but was HER2 negative instead.  Therefore, they changed her type of chemo and also moved her schedule to every two weeks.  John and Traci again helped with the little boys the week of chemo.  It turns out that the Adriamyacin is much harder on her and the two extra chemos she must receive has been a disheartening thing for her.  She was going to be done before Christmas but now the last chemo will be in January.

My trip to Guatemala was just perfect.  I was picked up at the airport by the Perkins and stayed in the same apartment building as them.  I was able to attend a wonderful session on Friday morning full of Hondurans who had brought 3000 family names to do temple work for!

Saturday the temple had about 200-300 people waiting outside for sessions and I went over and visited with a lot of them.  Many in their group were dressed in their indigenous clothing and some did not speak Spanish but only their Mayan language.  It was a treat for me. 

Later in the day I was picked up by a friend, Dr. Arlet Remis, from Chiquimula along with her two daughters Arletita and Alejandra.  After a four hour trip, we arrived in Chiquimula and attended a quincinera for Ana Marie Folgar whose family Dave and I had been friends with.  A quincinera is a huge birthday party for a young woman when she turns 15.  Families often go all out.  It may be as big and expensive as a wedding reception.  Arlet had me as her guest for the full week that I was in Chiquimula which was an enormous help to me.

This is Arlet and Alejandra along with a professor from CUNORI and his wife

Julia Folgar, one of my piano students, is sister to the 15 year old.

Sunday I was able to attend church at the ward we had lived in for 1 1/2 years and had so many friends in.  I was overcome with emotion the entire three hours--so many memories flooded back and I felt Dave so close.  Later a young woman in the ward told me she had had a dream the night before that Dave and I came to Chiquimula and that Dave just had the biggest grin and could not stop smiling.  I think that was true.  I do think he was there and that he was smiling.

Sis. Townsley is a granddaughter of two families from Fillmore
Frank Davies and Lee Townsley.
That night was the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional via satellite from SLC.  This was held in the other ward building and that gave me a chance to visit with many more friends.  I felt like I think it will be when I die and go to heaven and meet so many dear friends.  

Monday morning I had a visit from the Mendez family who live high in an aldea (village).  She was our produce lady and we helped her oldest daughter go to secretarial school.  She brought her husband and two youngest girls to the visit and it was really fun to see them.  I will include a photo here of a picture of them from when we were on our mission.  It is one of my favorites.
Visit with the Mendez family at their home 2008

Mendez family during my visit with them on this trip.  The photo is of her daughter graduating.

I was able to have lunch with CUNORI faculty who had participated in our English classes.  We have stayed good friends.  They took me in the van from CUNORI out to Los Laureles, a favorite spot for Dave and I to walk.  The owner of Los Laureles and some restaurants in town allowed the missionaries to play soccer on his fields at Los Laureles.  He now has a horse track and a nice restaurant at the ecological park, Los Laureles, which he has been developing for years.  What fun it was!

Friends from CUNORI--Lisandro,  Eduardo, Arlin and
Ana Rut are those that can be seen in this photo waving goodbye after dropping me off.

Then I had appointments about every hour of every day for visits from friends at my place or at their place or at a restaurant.  I was able to visit with every person I had on my list during the week I spent in Chiquimula--many by appointment, some by amazing coincidences and one by a pure miracle.  

Tuesday was a day to spend with Tere, our housekeeper,  and her family.  I invited them to spend the afternoon with me at Pradera Mall.  I took along Nandy Gordillo, Alejandra and Arletita.  

Tere andArletita 

Having smoothies and playing Jenga at Pradera

Pizza dinner after playing in the arcade

Wednesday morning I met the new senior missionary couple, the Danielsons, in the park for a great visit about our mission and things we had learned.  Hopefully our visit will be of help to them.  I followed up with them later after visiting other people and arranged for the young missionaries to followup with Garcias and Marta and Artigas.

A medical student, Leslie Cuc, drove the five hours from Coban and brought me a gorgeous purse made from the native pattern in Coban. We visited for almost an entire day together and she drove me around to try to find other friends's homes. We drove to the last place the Artigas had lived and they were no longer there. What a disappointment that was. A bridge had washed out and so the way to get to the other side of the city where several friends lived was very different and I couldn't get oriented. She also took me to Banco Industrial where I had $200.00 in an account. She was able to help me get it withdrawn. We spent a couple of hours at Arlet's baking chocolate chip cookies with Arletia and Alejandra. We had a great time but the oven wouldn't heat sufficiently and we had to resort to the toaster oven. I thought I took a photo but I can't find it. While we were finishing up, my neighbors from across from our old apartment, Rony and Lilian Ruiz, showed up at Arlet's. I was so happy to see them. I was afraid I would miss them as they had been out of town. They took Leslie and I to dinner at Pizza Burger Diner where I was able to visit with the owner, Tony, and several other people in the restaurant that I knew. What an amazing day it had been!

On Thursday I had lunch with the Barerras and then they picked up Nandy Gordillo, who was going with me to visit friends and help me navigate the bus system. Barreras showed us Tere's home that is almost complete. A family came from the states during this last year and donated funds and labor for the home. It was not complete when they left so members of the ward have been helping to finish it. It is up against the yard of the Barreras and I know they will watch over this precious little family. I just cried at the beauty of the home when I saw it. I had expected another one room home with an outside bathroom, but one that they didn't have to share with an entire compound of people. I was very mistaken. It has a wide entry with two nice bedrooms off of the entry and a large, tiled bathroom with indoor plumbing at the end of the entry. Outside is a covered kitchen area for cooking and another bathroom and a large pila (Guatemalan sink for washing clothes and storing water). The large yard is spacious and filled with all types of fruit trees and shrubs.

The outdoor, covered kitchen with the efficiency stove which uses much less wood

Bro. Bererra shows some of the plants in Tere's new yard

Pili and Lionel Barrera, their daughter Claudia and Nandy Gordillo in front of Tere's new house

Then Bro. Barrera took us to the first of the four homes that I wanted to visit and showed us where the other ones were so we wouldn't get lost coming from the back way because of the washed out bridge.  First we visited the Garcia home and found the parents and their return missionary son, Balmoris, at home.  I visit taught Edith when I was a missionary and we we were good friends with her son.  Dave and I had held a FHE with their family one night and it was a wonderful experience--the parents and 7 of their 8 children were present.  There was a special spirit in the home and the father testified strongly of the truths we taught.  However, the father never attends church.  Nandy and I had a great visit with them and I invited the father to start attending with his family.  He told me he has been reading his scriptures.  I said it was time to become active and he agreed and committed to do so.  I pray that he will keep that commitment. 

The Garcia family
Next we went to the home of Marta Folgar, the lady Dave baptized the last day we were in Chiquimula.  She is raising her  4 grandchildren, one of which is Kimberly, the girl with the osteogenesis imperfecta whom we helped a lot while we served in Chiquimula.  We did not know what kind of reception we would get because members told us that they were now going to a different church and didn't want visitors from the LDS Church.  When Marta saw me, she came running and threw her arms around me and excitably took us in to see Kimberly who was also excited to see us.  She had fallen at school and broken both of her legs below the knees.  The rods that were put in her femurs while we were missionaries did not help strengthen the lower legs.  She was now in two casts and very immobile again.  We also found that she was not getting piano lessons and her wheelchair is broken.  After visiting for awhile, I started to talk to them about the church.  Kimberly said she loved the church so much and wanted to attend.  Marta said that people came to their home and told her that they were worshipping on the wrong day--that they should worship on Saturday as the Jews had in the Bible.  She said she didn't know what to tell them--being very new in the church.  They had started to attend the Seventh Day Adventist Church.  The spirit was so strong in the room and I felt so guided as I explained why the day of worship had been changed.  She said she just hadn't understood and wanted to come back to church.  We talked for a long time and both of us bore strong testimony.  What a sweet experience we had there. 

 Nandy said that she and her sister could resume piano lessons with Kimberly and we told them we would try to find someone who could take them to church as Kimberly cannot take the bus.  The senior missionaries there now are going to work on getting her another wheelchair.  When we left, Nandy said she knew now why missionaries are so happy.  She said she wanted to keep that feeling forever.  I did too.

Kimberly (sitting) her two sisters and Marta the grandmother
Next we had a great visit with Julia Folgar (the girl shown in an above photo at the brithday celebration of her sister).  She was active when she was getting her piano lessons and she loves her keyboard and loves the church.  We talked with her of spiritual things and she cried and committed to strengthening herself and also her family.  

Then we visited with Mirna Arbizu.  We became good friends with her when we lived in Chiqumula and she is a special friend to me.  She was one of my visiting teaching companions and became fully active from that experience.  We had such a tender visit and she was so happy to see us.  She had made it a point to come up and visit on Sunday when I was at church but she hadn't expected me to show up at her home.

We hurried home as I had an appointment with Benjamin Perez, a friend who was the medical director of CUNORI when we taught there.  I was really on a high from our four wonderful visits.  Nandy had just dropped me off and the door bell rang.  Alejandra said it was Nandy.  I couldn't figure it out but when I went to the door, there was Gaby Artiga!  She threw her arms around me and jumped up and down.  I was so excited also.  She is from the poor family we had worked with so much on our mission.  Leslie and I had tried to find their home but we were told they had moved and the new tenants didn't know where they lived.  I had given up on finding them in such a large city.  It was a miracle.  Nandy was walking back to the bus and saw Gaby in Charlie's Pizza where she works now.  Gaby took a break when Nandy explained I was in town.  We quickly set a time for later that evening for a longer visit.  She has goals set for herself to finish school, learn computers and get her front tooth fixed (it was pulled while we were missionaries by LDS dentists who came twice a year for free services.  Her tooth was dead.  They hoped the space would fill in but it hasn't quite and she is concerned about her looks.  She says she has no boys in her life of which I was very, very happy.  I was afraid she would be involved with someone and pregnant or have a baby by now-  She is 17  and very pretty.  What good news to see her working, in school and setting good goals for herself.

Her mother, Vilma,  came the next morning to visit me and we had a great visit.  She is doing better.  Her health has improved and she has more energy.  She says she is working now ironing for people using the iron and ironing board we bought her to help her be more self-sufficient.  She asked for the chocolate chip cookie recipe which she no longer had.  She is one of the ladies we taught to make cookies for added income.  

Later on Friday morning I had visits from two of my favorite piano students, Jamie and Yuli.  We were very close and have stayed in touch.  What fun I had with them.  This was followed by a visit with Tere and her kids.  She brought back a bag she had borrowed.  I gave her money for some Christmas for her kids and gave the boys some money to buy her something.  It has been hard for her since the missionaries left Chiquimula.  We helped give her employment.  She brought me a little gift--a pretty resin tree with little artificial flowers on it.  I will treasure it.  

I also met with Marita Franco and had a good visit.  I gave her more money for the scholarship we provide for Tere's kids to stay in school.   Marita takes them shopping for school uniforms and shoes with the money Dave and I have provided for  them for the last three years.  A small amount of money provides uniforms, shoes, books and a little each month for the school supplies and activities that  are required.  There is free public education in Guatemala but lots of hidden fees that prevent many children from attending.  Tere now has all three children in school.

Jamie Guzman and Yuli Miranda
Friday morning, after my visits with Vilma, Jamie and Yuli,  Marita and Tere, Nandy came back  and took me to visit her family.  Her sister Noel is now married and has two little girls.  The first one is quite disabled and is on about the same developmental level as the three month old.  She is staying with her Mom and sisters right now while her husband works out of town.
Angelica, me, Noel and Nandy with the two little ones.  

Nandy returned with me to find a gift for Arlet to thank her for her hospitality and help for the last six days.  We found a beautiful picture of Paris with the Arc de Triumph in a snow storm.  She seemed to genuinely appreciate and like it very much.  Nandy had lunch with us and then I bid her goodbye.

Alejandra demonstrated her flaminco dancing for us just before we left for the ride back to the capital.  It had been an incredible week for me--one I will never forget.  I put this video on but it won't work and it won't let me take it off.