Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Transfers & Changes

Sunday our power went off at 6:00 am and was still off when we got to church in Nuevo Chao. Someone told me it would be off a full 12 hours because they heard it announced on the radio. So I told Ken about it being announced on the radio. He exclaimed, "What...how could you hear it on the radio when the power's off?" Everyone thought that was really funny. This is the first time it's been off so long. Usually it's just a few minutes..... hard to cook Sunday dinner in the crock pot.
Sunday they announced transfers. We're losing half our zone. Elder Ashby's leaving. There goes my harmonica solo in the choir, and there goes half of our favorite neighbors. Tears were shed when President Rios told us. We invited our favorite neighbors for Sunday dinner and had chicken in barbecue sauce with mashed potatoes and gravy with peanut butter cookies for dessert. I couldn't find Hershey kisses to top them, so we used Donofrio triangles...worked like a yummy charm.
My music experiences are still hilarious. Last week at the mission home, Sister Rios introduced me as an accomplished pianist and asked me to perform. I declined and said I was out of practice. Next morning I wowed her by plunking out Solfagetto. She wants me to teach her to play. And since the district president asked me to organize the choir for district conference, everyone at church comes to me for music advice. I can barely keep a straight face when it happens. The stake primary president wants help with a primary choir for Saturday district conference. Our branch president wants me to find someone to train as a branch music leader...and wave my magic musical wand, right? The missionaries ask for help with their piano playing and singing. Sunday I taught a new song in Primary, "I Feel my Savior's Love," all four verses. And then there's the piano lessons...I could go on. In my spare time I still practice conducting in front of a mirror. In a philosophical light, I could add that serving a mission brings out talents I never knew I had, and the small talents I used to take for granted have turned into invaluable treasures to share. That's just one of my many spiritual experiences.
Last Thursday we received an urgent call from the mission office to report in. So we cancelled all our appointments and got on the next bus to Trujillo. Turns out we were needed to attend Sister Rios's birthday party, and it was nice to have someone else there besides a roomful of young elders. Also President Rios wanted to go over his first session of transfers and receiving new missionaries. It's a pretty big deal, so we will be coming back to help on the big day. Sister Rios and I will be orienting the new sister missionaries. We had our neighbors fill us in on rules and counsel they will need.

Hermana Alicia & Marco in their front room...to the right is where they keep water...to the left is living quarters.
Martha Stewart's cookies were never so appreciated! 
Click here for the Dynamic Duo's grand finale  .
Happy Birthday, Hermana Rios...with Elder Pacheco, the photo bomber. 
Erica on her way to school
Cui in the casa!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Happy Birthday

It's been a busy week, and the wifi in our apartment quit working, so I just haven't written anything or maybe we're so used to being here that nothing seems unusual anymore. We've been careful with our food so we won't get sick, but still had salad and ceviche, which are strictly forbidden for the young elders. However, not forbidden is the infamous tres leche cake which we've heard is quite the urban legend. 
Wednesday we went to Trujillo and met the 12 elders from our zone at the temple. Sometimes we feel like parents with lots of comedians for sons.  We went early to do a special sealing for Leonardo Bernardini and Rosina Franceschi...pretty awesome...much thanks to all our kids and grandkids who did the work up to this point :) After we met at the mall where they had a special lunch (at McDonald's) for an elder being transferred. We left and went to the mission home to lunch with President and Hermana Rios. We were late, so we ate alone. Then the office elders came over and hung out. It seemed odd. Hermana Rios set out treats on the table: popcorn, chips, hot sauces, cookies. Then she brought out a cake, put  a candle on top and everyone sang happy birthday to Ken. Surprise! It was delicious and moist like a pudding cake. Hermana Rios explained that they take milk and drizzle it all over the cake after it's baked: canned milk, sweetened condensed milk and fresh milk....you mean like three kinds of milk? Like three milks, tres leches? I guess it must have been okay after all, as strict as they are about food rules. 
We were getting ready to say goodbye, when we were informed that our visa/carnet paperwork had come back from Lima, and we only had one day to fill it all out and turn it in or our visas would expire. How does this always happen? We spent the evening shopping and visiting with the Rios family and went off to bed to prepare for an early start at the immigration office. By morning we were too sick to figure out what had happened to us. But we're tough. We managed to get out to the Migracion. We stood in line, filled out forms, let the guy behind the counter harass us and tell us we had to go back to Lima or leave the country. We signed forms and put our inky finger prints next to our signatures, all the while in pain with stomach cramps. Four days later we're back in Virú, so the visa must have extended. But the stomach cramps are still here too. You might wonder why no one else was sick. They all assured us you get used to the cake after awhile.
Saturday we strolled around Nuevo Chao looking for excitement and new contacts with our two Elder buddies, Gomez and Rodriguez. There's always construction going on, to Ken's delight. The town is part of an agricultural project growing asparagus and other fruit and vegetables for export. People keep moving in because jobs are available. We always stop at the Adobe yards where some men shovel mud into forms to make adobe bricks, three at a time. Ken always talks to them, and this time we brought them a big bottle of Inka Kola. We are friends and had a pleasant visit.
During our stroll we met up with the branch president. He casually mentioned that on the third Sunday of the month, tomorrow, the missionaries always talk in church. If it wasn't for the last minute we'd never find out anything. So we prepared for that before bed. I also prepared more thoroughly for Primary.
The talks went well. They liked it when I spoke a little Quechua and told about how we met in Peru 40 years ago. I was relieved to see my friend Trinidad there to help me teach Primary. The first thing she told me was that the primary president was absent...oh no! Good thing I had a lesson prepared. It's all so bizarre the way things go. About half way through, this lady Alissa sat down in primary with us,  and she was the best help! We had just helped her buy some jello to start a business. They make the jello, pour it into little bags, let it set up, and sell it on the street. People just bite a hole in the corner and suck the jello out. She says she can make 10 soles per day. That's $3.
Today, Sunday we had our second choir practice. Everyone did much better, and I didn't get lost as often. I'm starting to think that Peruvians simply don't practice piano though. I wonder if my piano players will ever learn their parts. Oh well...I'm confident my choir can sing a capella when the pianists get lost :) It's not like the piano helps them stay on key or anything. Also most of the Elders showed up to practice with us. They did their parts with gusto, and I even noticed some harmony, although at first I thought I was back teaching high school again, classroom managing teenage antics. The harmonica turned out to be a different key than the music, but I think we can work something out. Everyone loves the harmonica part, so we have to make it work. This choir is awesome!
Grandpa, I mean, Elder Whitney and Rafael
Niños de la primaria
Adobe makers. Note the Inka Kola, raw material piles and the finished product.
Walking around in Valle de Dios, just keep an eye out for buses and men with loads of guinea pig food.
All the Elders from Zona Virú.
A proud moment for these boys' moms.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Choir Debut

Sunday was my first choir practice. At first I was scared no one would show up, then as my singers trickled in I was scared because they did show up after all. I think the district president was out in the hall sending in recruits because more and more people kept coming in, even a couple of native speaking young missionaries. I had my two little accompanists ready, except they hadn't learned the music yet, so we put the keyboard on automatic. Since I really didn't know what I was doing, I just tried to be complimentary to everyone and thanked them all for coming, and begged them to come back next week. I felt like the missionaries were picking on me when they kept asking me to sing through the songs solo, but it turned out that they just wanted to hear the music to learn it. So I squeaked through. It looks like we'll be performing our two songs in unison, "Me encanta ver el templo" and "Id, oh santos, a el templo." I'll add a few simple variations like one verse male voices and one verse female voices, plus one of the missionaries will have a harmonica part. It will be interesting. They are all heart and soul. By the time we finished they were sounding pretty good! Ken's giving me a crash course in conducting before the next practice. 

Un dos tres... Do I look as petrified as I feel?

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Day in Lima

Once again we flew in on the midnight special, except arriving an hour late, it was the 1:00 am special...the longer it takes, the more time for fun! Despite the wee hour, our escort met us and ushered us off to the Hotel Nobility, a four and a half star treat. Unfortunately after an hour's drive between the airport and Lima, we only had four hours to sleep before our busy day began. We paid a visit to Interpol to apply for our International Interpol Resident Carnet to stay in the country two years. Interpol orchestrates a complex process beginning with official photos and an hour wait to receive our number for our turn in line. Out of about a hundred applicants, we lucked out with numbers 5 and 6. They bumped us back a few places to accommodate someone with a screaming child and a couple of expectant mothers...still we were the envy of all those behind us. After another hour, we filled out a plethora of forms including name, address, father's and mother's names, name, address, weight and height in metric, name, address, eye color, and hardest of all, hair color. Ken's application was rejected. Out of ancient habit, he put brown. They made him change it to not grey, but white. Then finger printed, thumb printed and hand printed. An officer announced that we were Americanos and had to be printed twice...hand, hand, fingers, thumb...dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum. I have to say they were very nice to us. One of the officials kept speaking English to me, Good morning! Tank you! Good morning! Tank you! Then best of all, after another hour or so, we stood in line for the odontologia check. They record individual dental work in case they need to identify your remains after an earthquake. After inspecting Ken's teeth, the official commented that Wow, he had work in almost every tooth. That was before he saw my 16 veneered masterpieces. He'd never seen anything like that before. Luckily Ken was able to explain it to him. After coloring in every single tooth on my dental chart, the poor guy shook his hand out and said it needed a rest. Since such impeccable efficiency shaved a couple hours off our tight agenda, our chauffeur/protector agreed to a quick scenic tour by the Lima Temple, Plaza de Armas, and the romantically fateful post office where I retrieved that infamous letter from Ken 40+ years ago.

Coca-Cola welcomes you to Lima.
Back in the Plaza de Armas, como antes, siempre jovenes y enamorados 
Linda @ the Plaza of Armas, Lima
Lima Temple on a drive-by
Castle in the clouds...snow capped Andes poking thru the clouds

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Pollo a la Brasa

Last night we went out for Pollo a la Brasa, chicken roasted on a spit. It was so good that Ken had it half eaten before I could take a picture! Notice the dark purple juice. It's chicha morada, a fruit punch made from black corn. It tastes more like berries than corn. If you read the Peruvian story in the Once Long Ago storybook, it mentions chicha.
Afterward we visited a family here in Virú Pueblo, the Verbeecks. The grandmother turns 68 soon, and they're planning a big fiesta somewhere out of town.  Her deceased husband is Belgian, and she told about her adventures in Europe. She said she was just a small girl from the countryside in Peru.  One time the family went out, and she got left behind at the bottom of a moving staircase! It was terrifying...everytime she tried to step onto it, the step moved away from her! Finally her husband had to come back and rescue her. She said it was embarrassing. She's also been to Mesa, AZ where one of her kids lives. She remembers the brutal heat, the hottest she's ever felt. One time they went to the temple to watch this beautiful show on the grass...the Easter Pageant!

Que rico...finger lickin' good!

"The Prince and  the Maiden" a Peruvian tale from Once Long Ago

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Holá, Holá!

Today the saints in Nuevo Chao came out in full force. We even had primary! Sacrament meeting is on the second floor, so we go downstairs for Primary.  The kids welcomed me singing the Spanish version of "Hello, Hello!" There were about 15 children. It's hard to say exactly because they kept moving around and coming and going. After an hour of sharing time, the primary president took the younger kids to another room and left me with the older half, along with the teacher, Hermana Trinidad. They started class with an opening song and talked me into letting them sing "Sigue al Profeta," all nine verses. They sang with such gusto it interrupted the adult classes upstairs. Then Trinidad let me give the lesson from my trusty Liahona that I just happened to bring with me. It was a sweet experience.

At stake/district leadership meeting on Thursday, Ken says the district president suddenly noticed my talents and abilities and reached out to me for a couple of assignments. I'd kept a low profile in the previous two meetings, but he still called on me for the closing prayer in both of those meetings. This time he announced a stake/district relief society leadership meeting, and asked me to be the main speaker. I softly said no but Ken said, "Sure, she would be delighted." I disappeared back into the wall flowers. At least I thought I did until he announced the upcoming stake/district conference. President Blas looked straight at me. I don't know how he did that because I know I was invisible. Then he asked me to organize a choir for stake conference. Who, me? No way! Once again Ken threw me under the bus and said, That'd be great. Hermana Whitney would love to." Just then one of the young women stopped by for some keys, and it turns out she's one of the advanced piano students. An amazing 'coincidence.'
Finally today after church we had the Elders over for dinner and asked them to phone our prospective accompanist. We went down to the church, met with her and her sister, and agreed to work on the music together. As an added bonus, we met two other sisters, also piano students, and arranged with their mother to start lessons with them too. Rewarding day!
Holá, Holá!
Willing ayudantes
Sigue al Profeta, all nine verses, twice!  

A day in the Life in Virú

Elder Rodriguez, the Limanite (he's from Lima)
I'm having an adventure in piano lessons. When we first arrived I had a minor dispute with the mission president's 17-year-old daughter about whether the music lines were called a,b,c.... or do,re,mi... Imagine that! Now I've discovered a book by Mary James that sheds light on my Spanish music problems. They really do use do,re,mi and middle C is do central. Instead of quarter, half and whole notes, it's blacks, whites and rounds. The C/treble clef is clave de do, and the G/bass clef is clave de sol. Fascinating! Meanwhile Mary James has sent me digital copies of her piano books designed for teaching in the mission field with permission to print them for missionary purposes. This includes  a transitional simplified hymn book, all in Spanish, designed to go with another program that donates keyboards and simplified hymnbooks to select places in the mission field. The Missionary couple before us started a music program here, so all I have to do is keep it going. It's exciting to see these little gals in their homes with dirt floors playing the piano. Meanwhile their parents, sisters and brothers all sit around us reverently watching the lesson with expressions of ooos and ahhhs when they recognize a hymn being played. It's a sweet perk for serving a mission here.
Rest assured that I am still running. Ken takes me to the plaza at 6:00am, and I do 2-3 miles in circuits while we watch the pueblo come to life. People go to work,  children go to school dressed in their uniforms, some carrying projects. I'm the only one running. Some give me strange looks, some say buenas dias, some just shake their heads and laugh. They're getting used to us along with the other regulars, watering the grass, pushing carts of fruit, carts of miscellaneous deliveries, the musical call of the ice cream truck...no wait that's the garbage collector. Yes we're becoming a permanent fixture.

Elder Gomez from Iquitos on the stairs in the Casa Capilla de Nuevo Chao

Elder Carr capturing Hermana Whitney's infamous manjar blanco cinnamon rolls on digital film

Fresh fruit even tho here south of the equator its the middle of the winter

Balloons in the Plaza de Armas Virú, Perú

Plaza de Armas on the point of awakening

Saturday, August 1, 2015