Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas time


This was our first Christmas completely away from family.  It was a little bit emotional for us especially when we Skyped with our grandchildren.  We really miss them.  But let me start at the beginning of the season with our Belize Mission party.

All of the missionaries in Belize gathered together at the Radisson Hotel in Belize to have a big Christmas dinner and party with our mission president, President Hintze, his wife and his assistants who all came in from San Salvador for the occasion.  There are 50 Elders and Sisters and 5 senior couples serving in Belize.  We sang Christmas carols for which I played the keyboard for accompaniment.  They had prepared a video presentation using some of the church videos of the Christmas story which was really nice.  We had a very nice meal and then played some games which the AP's had prepared.  The Hintze's had made up gift packages for all the Elders and Sisters and they had brought packages from the missionaries' families that had arrived in El Salvador.  They also had made up special T-shirts for all of us.  After the program and dinner, most of the young Elders and Sisters were allowed to change into P-day clothes and put on their T-shirts to play games.  The seniors didn't change, however.  It was a lot of fun with all the exhuberance practically exploding from that many young missionaries, kind of hard to contain in a small area.  Each district prepared a skit or other talent that they presented after dinner.  They were pretty funny.  Some had quite a bit of talent.  One elder wrote his own song and sang it while accompanying himself on the guitar.  



Later that week we attended the Belize City Branch's Christmas Party.  There was quite a turnout.  The Primary had a special dinner for the children before the adult party so they wouldn't have to wait so long to eat.  


At the official party, Elder Moulton, the Second Councilor in the Mission Presidency, gave a short Christmas message. The Moultons are the other senior couple here in Belize City.  Every auxilliary prepared a talent.  The RS did a really cute version of the 12 days of Christmas, several others sang (even a set of missionaries) and the Primary had a cute song and skit.



On Monday before Christmas, the Moultons took all of the Belize City District to lunch for our own party.  We went to a local chinese food restaurant because Elder Yim (who is of chinese ancestry but is from Hawaii) can speak chinese and he wanted to talk to the owner to try to set up a time to teach him and his family.  I think he had a good visit with the owner in Chinese and it was productive.  The food there is quite good.

Christmas Day was a busy one for us since we had invited two of the missionary couples to come to our house for dinner.  The Moultons had gone to San Pedro on Caye Ambergris to be with the four elders on the island to give them access to their computer so they could Skype with their families.  The Mendenhalls are assigned to the Belmopan area which is about 60 miles inland from us and the Rinderknechts are in San Ignacio which is about 40 miles farther west from Belmopan very close to the Guatemalan border.  We were at the MTC with the Rinderknechts.  

We had a really nice dinner.  Sister Tague made a wonderful sweet potato souffle that is becoming a traditional Tague family recipe that Danielle makes. It was a super hit with everyone.  We also roasted game hens with stuffing, our family tradition for Christmas.  They were fabulous if I do say so myself.  We also made mashed potatoes and gravy.  The Mendenhalls brought vegetables, corn and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and cranberry sauce.  The Rinderknechts brought homemade bread and chocolate cake.  Sister Tague also made a Ho Ho Cake that is just like Hostess Ho Ho's.  It was an amazing meal with great company.  They all had to leave fairly early since it is a long drive to their homes but we will definitely be doing something like this again.  


Most of the morning was spent cooking and Skyping with our family.  It was kind of emotional for us to see the kids and not be able to be with them.  We were a little teary-eyed.  We do miss them, especially at times like these but what a blessing that we are able to Skype and actually see them.  They showed us all their presents and it was a lot of fun to share their excitement.  

                                           Here's our little Christmas Tree in our house

So we made it through our first major holiday all by ourselves out here in Belize.  The Belizeans love Christmas and decorate thier houses quite profusely.  Here are some pictures of Belize at Christmas.

Monday, December 23, 2013

First impressions


It has been quite a challange becoming acclimatized to our new surroundings.  Belize is another world. The sights, sounds, smells, ROADS, traffic, people and general ambiance is sometimes a little overwhelming but it is still wonderful.

The perception that people have of Belize, produced from ads for travel and investment, is that Belize is this tropical paradise where people lounge on beaches under palm trees and sip drinks of varying kinds from coconut bowls.  While there are some places like that, the truth is that Belize is a very poor, underdeveloped, third-world country. Most of the people are poor having only a bare subsistance income.  Even so, they are a happy people, very friendly and helpful.  


The mixture of languages heard in the street is interesting.  It is technically an English speaking country but the English that is commonly spoken has an accent and lilt that is rather musical but at the same time practically unintelligible.  When they break into Creole, we're almost completely out of luck.  Most people can speak "proper" English ,as they call it, and have no problem understanding us but we have to get our ears accustomed to them.  Then there are the Spanish speakers.  Sister Tague can actually understand and converse with them more easily but that kind of leaves Elder Tague out.  

Speaking of streets, the streets and roads are TERRIBLE!!!  There are multiple potholes in every "paved" street (and paved is a very optimistic and overblown description).  Many are a foot or more deep.  It is like driving through a maze to try to navigate between them or, when impossible to avoid, choose the most shallow.  (It is my considered opinion that the franchise for car shocks is owned by a relative of a powerful political figure. heh heh).  The alley behind our house in Midland would be considered a pretty good road in Belize.  There are a few cement streets but most, if they are paved at all, are a thin layer of poorly mixed asphalt and gravel.  They get washed out constantly and the holes are filled with sand and/or gravel which are promptly washed out in the next rain. (It has rained nearly every day since we arrived). Driving through the city can be very hard on the back and spine.  The roads are shared equally with pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, buses, and trucks.  It can be quite confusing and many times hair-raising.  

Here are some typical scenes from Belize City. Notice the potholes in front of the Church building.


                                         The Belizean answer to Wendy's

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Trip to Belize

Our journey to Belize was fraught with difficulties due to weather.  We were supposed to fly out of Salt Lake at 6:15 am on Dec. 9th but that didn't happen.  We had stayed with Laurianne in Grantsville for the weekend since she picked us up from the MTC and Grantsville is only about 30 minutes from the airport.

Of course we had to be there 2 hours earlier to check in, etc. so we got up at 3:00 to pack the car and drive in.  Almost as we got onto I-80 it started to snow.  No problem we thought.  Laurianne is used to driving in snow.  However, as we progressed toward the airport, the storm really came in and we were reduced to going 15 mph for most of the way.  The car in front of us spun out and did a 180 degree turn right in front of us.  Luckily, due to the early hour, there weren't too many cars on the road so we were able to avoid hitting him.  Conditions progressively got worse from there.  We managed to inch our way up the exit ramp to the access road to the airport which thankfully was cleared of the ice.

Congratulating ourselves for our safe and almost timely arrival, we optimistically unloaded the car at the skycap kiosk.  The skycap went in to weigh/check our luggage and get our boarding passes but discovered that our flight to Dallas was cancelled.  We were supposed to fly to Dallas and on to Belize but because the Dallas airport was completely iced in, the airport was closed and 600 flights had been cancelled.  It would have been nice if they had told us that before we risked life and limb to get to the airport.  Oh well.  The skycap said that we had been re-routed by way of Los Angeles (go figure) that evening and to Dallas in the wee hours of the morning.

At this point it was 5:00.  Laurianne works in Bountiful so we didn't want to make her go all the way back home in the weather, then turn around and come all the way back.  We decided to go on in with her and spend the day in town.  We were all ready for  some breakfast so we tried to find someplace open for business at that hour.  Alas, there was no breakfast to be had until 6:00 or after.  We made do with the only place that was open, Dunkin' Donuts, (which, by the way, has absolutely no comparison to T & T Donuts in Midland.  Dunkin' Donuts was a pretty pathetic substitute.)

Laurianne had planned to go to work early anyway so we went on.  She works at a short-term rehabilitation center as an Occupational Therapist.  The people there were so nice. They had empty rooms so they let us stay in one, brought us breakfast, and let us use the bed and wifi.  It was very nice and we were able to recuperate from the traumatic morning. The snow continued to fall causing a very unusual accumulation for this time of year (or at leasst that's what they said). The view from our window was quite lovely but we were glad to be inside in a warm, comfortable room.


Laurianne finished her patient load just after noon since she had come so early.  We went to do some Christmas shopping and then met Ben in Tooele to buy their Christmas tree.  The girls were suprised when they got home from school, not only because we were still there but the tree was there as well.

Around 4:30 we made the trek to the airport again.  The roads had been plowed and they weren't bad. By that time, the snow had stopped coming down.  We were able to get our bags weighed and checked and get our boarding passes.  We had really worked on getting everything we needed for 2 years into 4 checked bags and 2 carry-ons.  We managed it by using the advice that Coleen Rigtrup gave us.  We put stacks of clothes into large trash bags and sucked out the air with the vacuum hose.  It was amazing.  I've seen the ads on TV about the space bags and I always wanted to see how they worked.  This was cheaper and worked just as well.   We even were able to take 2 of our favorite pillows.  Here are the before and after pictures of our pillows as we packed them.


Our flight to LA was uneventful.  We arrived at 9:10 that evening.  The problem was that our plane to Dallas didn't leave until 12:55 That night.  We were getting pretty tired.  We had all that time to hang aroung the airport with nothing much to do.  We found a place to plug in our phones and ipads so we were able to get them fully charged.  The plane to Dallas was on time.

Again the flight to Dallas was uneventful.  We arrived at 6:00 am Dallas time.  Our plane for Belize didn't leave until 12:30 so we had a 6 hour layover.  We were exhausted by that time and needed to rest.  Gary had researched our alternatives and discovered that there is a small hostel inside the international terminal that offers rooms to rent by the hour.  They offer a quiet place to sleep and shower while you wait for your plane.  We went straight to this place and rented a room where we gratefully slept for several hours. Gary took a shower while I got another hour of sleep.  After that we found a nice restaurant where we had a very tasty brunch.

So rested and fed we headed for our departure gate.  Unfortunately, our assigned seats were directly over the wings so we couldn't see much of anything of the country as we approached for landing and I couldn't get any pictures.  All I could see was green, green forest and large lagoons along the coast.
We arrived just before a plane from El Salvador landed so we were kind of lucky to be in the first of the lines for customs.  It was pretty chaotic.  It took us about an hour and a half to get through everything.  We landed at 3:45 and didn't get out of the airport until 5:30.  Another missionary couple was there to meet us and take us to the local church distribution center where all the missionaries were getting instructions about where they were going and how to get there.  There were 10 new Elders and Sisters there that had arrived from El Salvador a little earlier.  Some had to take buses to their assigned cities and others had to get to their apartments here in Belize City. 


Finally we were taken to our new home.  We were tired but excited to be here and get started on our mission.

                                                    Standing on or front porch.

Monday, December 16, 2013

At the MTC

The MTC experience is quite unique and not easily described in words.  It's a spiritual experience as well as a physical one and probably can only be appreciated fully by those who have actually participated in it.  However, I will try to express our feelings.

We, of course, took the almost required picture in front of the large world map pointing to our destination.  

It was so exciting to finally be there and get our official name tags and orientation packet.  We were told that we were part of the largest senior missionary group in church history.  There were 153 seniors, 9 sisters and 72 couples.  It was almost double the usual number so they were scrambling to provide instructors for all of us but they were successful. Actually the whole MTC program is a well-oiled machine.  Everything ran like clockwork even with such a large group. 

We had wonderful teachers, young returned missionaries who have been carefully selected for charisma, testimony, and knowledge.  We all thought that "our" teachers were the best but everyone said the same thing.  We had one instructor for morning and one for the afternoon.  Our morning teacher was Brother Zundel and our afternoon teacher was Sister Sanford.  They were both exceptional.  I don't know how they maintain such a level of enthusiasm constantly but they were amazing. (They almost made us tired just watching them.) The Spirit is so strong there it is almost palpable.  There is such a feeling everywhere that is impossible to describe.

We worked out of Preach my Gospel and mainly learned how to ask the right questions, listen to responses to evaluate where the person was coming from and listen to the Spirit to guide our lesson planning and discussion.  The real key to all is asking the right questions and truly listening.  We did a lot of role playing to practice these principles.  They even bring in people from the community to be investigators for us to practice on.  Ours was a very spiritual experience.  The man we worked with was such a great person.


The group was so large that they had to break us into 3 groups for the traditional picture of everyone.  We also took individual district pictures, as well.  (We were divided into small groups or districts for training, usually 4 couples per district, although there were 2 that were larger.)

There is a devotional every Tuesday night and while we were there Elder Ballard was supposed to speak.  But a bad winter storm came up and the roads were too dangerous for him to make the trip from Salt Lake to Provo.  Elder Hafen, an emiritus member of the 70 who lives in Provo, spoke with his wife.  He was just released as the president of the St. George temple.  It was very inspiring.

We met so many people there.  It was wonderful.  I was amazed at the diverse places that all these senior missionaries were called to.  Several were going to Russia, at least 2 couples were going to Mongolia. (One of them was in our district).  Several were going to Nigeria and Uganda.  One was going to the Cook Islands, some to Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Malaysia among others and places in the states.  

When it came time to leave, we had to say goodbye (again) to good friends, especially Sister Marsha Kinghorn who entered with us on the same day.  We both are from Midland 2nd Ward and received our callings at the same time.  It was really fun to be there with her but since she is a single sister, she was not in our district.  She is going to Jamaica.  Laurianne came to pick us up at the MTC on Friday to take us home to her house for the weekend before we flew out to Belize so our MTC experience cam to an end.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Trip to the MTC

We left Midland on November 21, 2013.  Anne-Marie took us to the airport and we had a very tearful goodbye.  We will miss all of the kids in Midland so much.  We arrived in Salt Lake City wihtout any problems and Laurianne picked us up.  She had a free afternoon so we went shopping and met Nathaniel for lunch.  By the time we finished lunch, it was starting to snow and it started to come down pretty fast.  That was our welcome to Salt Lake.  

We had a great visit with Laurianne's family.  Paityn, her 4 year old, was "gracious" enough to take us to City Creek Mall one afternoon while Laurianne was working. We had a lot of fun.  The snow had melted by that time.  

Nathaniel's family came down to Grantsville for Thanksgiving and we had a wonderful dinner.  It was so much fun for the families to be 

That evening we went back to Ogden with Nathaniel to visit with his family for a few days before we actually entered the MTC.  They were taking care of the neighbor's dog for the weekend and we had an interesting walk with the dog and the kids.  

Sunday evening came all too fast and it was time for us to go down to Provo and the MTC.  Nathaniel drove us down.  He had a little too much fun telling the guard at the gate that he was "dropping his parents off at the MTC", a reverse of what we did almost 20 years ago.  We managed to get all our belongings into the main building there and received our official missionary name tags.  We were pretty excited.  But then we had to say another goodbye.  They don't get any easier.